Queen's speech: government works to improve IP matching in criminal investigations

Home Office reportedly hopes to revive controversial communications bill

Shona Ghosh
8 May 2013

The government may revisit its controversial Communications Data bill, the so-called "snooper’s charter" that proposes giving security agencies more access to communications data.

The Queen opened a new session of Parliament today, outlining the coalition’s legislative programme in her speech, and carefully referenced plans to "enable the investigation of crime in cyberspace."

"In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace," she said.

As expected, the wider bill was dropped from the speech after deputy PM Nick Clegg vetoed the proposals in April. At the time, it seemed that the bill could be dropped entirely as Clegg said legislation wouldn’t happen while his party was in government. Clegg did concede at the time that the issue of matching IP addresses still needed to be addressed.

The Queen’s speech seemed to suggest that the government would keep a narrow focus on matching IP addresses to individuals, something that has become more problematic with the growing popularity of mobile devices, which hinders criminal investigations. But additional sources have told The Guardian that legislation could take place after all, with home secretary Theresa May still hoping to resurrect the wider bill, which gives agencies licence to track emails, calls and social media data.

"This is not about indiscriminately accessing internet data of innocent members of the public, it is about ensuring that police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to investigate the activities of criminals that take place online as well as offline," said a Downing Street briefing note.

A resurrection of the bill would likely cause uproar among privacy campaigners, with academics dismissing the plans as "naive and technically dangerous" in a letter last year. Critics added that the measures were open to abuse and an infraction on individuals’ privacy.

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