Former GCHQ head Sir David Omand said that new security laws should force Internet firms to retain their users' data. This has been said in the midst of debates regarding data encryption laws in some of the biggest countries in the world, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. GCHQ is Britain's communications surveillance centre.
According to a report from the BBC, Sir David said that data retention should be done, not to spy on ordinary Internet users, but to help security firms catch suspected terrorists. Sir David said he would keep browsing data to see "for example, whether a suspect has downloaded a terrorist manual." The former GCHQ director's commentary is in line with how the Government is set to publish new laws on the authority of the intelligence agencies in the country as part of the Investigatory Powers Act.
Sir David said in a Politics Home report that the new powers agencies will be equipped with are not significantly greater than the existing ones, but said that data encryption needs to be considered. "The one area is the question of 'Should the internet companies be compelled to retain communications data or metadata, including the web history?' I think it is necessary," Sir David said.
In the United Kingdom, ministers have ruled out plans to ban Internet firms to retain user information. But under the new laws, security firms will still be able to intercept user data and activity by issuing warrants. Some people have dubbed the new legislation as "snoopers' charter". Privacy campaigns have surfaced to fight against such laws which compromise users' right to privacy online and off.
The Government has made it clear that intelligence agencies will only be allowed to see user data content in extreme cases, and a second warrant must be issued to read the contents, according to Politics Home. The Government has already rejected requests from authorities to regularly monitor users' Internet activities.