Coalition clash over web privacy

Government to review plans as Clegg urges "fundamental rethink"

A draft Data Communications Bill that would see police and intelligence services the power to monitor people's internet use and online communications will be reviewed after coming under fire for its broad scope, which it is feared could impact upon privacy.

It included forcing ISPs to store all communication details for one year, as well as keeping full records of an individual's internet history. The police, intelligence agencies and customs officials would all be able to see details such as the time, date and source of any communication, as well as the sender and recipient.

They would require permission from the Home Secretary to actually see the content of these messages.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg indicated he would block the Bill, saying that the plans failed to find "the balance between security and liberty", and urged a "fundamental rethink" of the idea.

A Joint Committee of MPs and peers also found that the plans went "much further than they need or should," while Labour accused the government of "making a complete mess of a very important issue."

Home Office defends plans as privacy remains a hot topic

Despite these criticisms, the Home Office defended the planned measures as essential for catching terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals.

Home Secretary Theresa May is thought to want the plans in place as early as possible next year, but as one of the main stumbling blocks appears to be the amount of power she would have if the Bill were to become law, that target may need to be reassessed.

Privacy has long been a key issue for internet users, with frequent debates raging as to how services deal with our data. In October, Google's privacy policy came under scrutiny from the EU after they attempted to implement new measures without offering users the chance to opt out.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "Privacy is important to internet users, and the idea of the government monitoring our online activities will always be a source of controversy. This debate is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, as it will probably prove very difficult to reach a resolution that satisfies all parties."