Anyone who opposes the Communications Data Bill, which would give police greater access to data on Internet and email communications, is on the side of paedophiles, criminals and terrorists, Home Secretary Theresa May has told The Sun newspaper.
"Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles will want MPs to vote against this bill," she said. "Victims of crime, police and the public will want them to vote for it. It’s a question of whose side you’re on.”
“The people who say they’re against this bill need to look victims of serious crime, terrorism and child sex offences in the eye and tell them why they’re not prepared to give the police the powers they need to protect the public."
“Anybody who is against this bill is putting politics before people’s lives," she said.
May was speaking before the release of a report on the bill by a committee of MPs, due in the next two weeks. Last week, The Independent reported that the report will accuse the Home Office of failing to present a "compelling case" for the new powers.
It has also been reported that deputy prime minister Nick Clegg may use the report to veto the bill, dubbed a "snooper’s charter’ by critics. A Liberal Democrat source told the BBC that the report will give Clegg "an opportunity to kill the bill for good and that’s what he wants to do".
The text of the bill was published in June this year.
"Communications data is already used by the police and is vital for day-to-day police work and in particular the investigation of all forms of serious crime, including terrorism and child abuse," the Home Office argued at the time. "This legislation will ensure that, as communications technology changes, the police will maintain access to this data in future. But access to data will continue to be permitted only in the context of a specific investigation of operation."
It has argued that the bill does not extend the police’s powers of surveillance, but keeps them in line with the progress of technology.
Opponents of the bill say that it does extend police surveillance, as communications data from Internet services can be used to build up a detailed picture of citizen’s lives.
"The data generated through our use of services like Facebook, Google and Twitter tells people far more about us than phone records – it reveals our our tastes, preferences and social ‘map’," the Open Rights Group argues. "Furthermore, the distinction between ‘content’ and ‘communications data’ does not, in practice, easily hold. So to claim this is simply an ‘update’ of existing powers is not accurate."
"Many people are asking what happens when a business or email system encrypts data in transit," the ORG adds. "We are told that Home Office officials claim they will be able to break encryption. While this seems unlikely, if true, it would threaten the security of the Internet economy.
"If they are wrong, and their systems will not break encryption, then the system will quickly lose value as more and more data is encrypted for your safety and security."