UK police forces "lobby" to get access to internet browsing histories

Sarah Spickernell
Follow Sarah
Communications companies would have to hold on to data for 12 months
Communications companies would have to hold on to data for 12 months (Source: Getty)

Police want to be given access the internet browsing histories of everyone in the UK, according to reports.

They have lobbied the government ahead of next week's unveiling of the new surveillance bill in the House of Commons, during which home secretary Theresa May is expected to put forward the new measures.

Internet service providers around the country will have to hold onto browsing data for all its customers for the last 12 months, and make it available to security services should they want it, The Times said.

The police said having access to internet connection records (ICRs) would allow them to log visits to child abuse sites and also to see the social media pages looked at by missing people. A senior officer said it was “about everyday investigation rather than surveillance”.

Read more: Police investigate “significant" cyber attack on TalkTalk

ICRs were first proposed in the Communications Bill, also known as the snooper's charter, during the coalition government. It never went ahead, however, because the Liberal Democrats blocked the bill due to privacy concerns.

But the rule would not grant immediate access to everyone's data – to investigate a person's history, the police would still need judicial approval. Additionally, they would only be given access to homepage visits – they would not be able to see particular content viewed within a site.

Richard Berry, the National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman for data communications, said: “We want to police by consent, and we want to ensure that privacy safeguards are in place. But we need to balance this with the needs of the vulnerable and the victims.”

We essentially need the ‘who, where, when and what’ of any communication — who initiated it, where were they and when did it happen. And a little bit of the ‘what’, were they on Facebook, or a banking site, or an illegal child abuse image-sharing website?

Related articles