UK police could hack phones and browse Internet records

Telegram at the forefront of privacy debate
Telegram at the forefront of privacy debate

Authorities in the U.K. will be able to hack into phones and look through web browsing records, under a proposal put forward by the government.

The government wants to increase surveillance powers of British authorities investigating crimes and fighting terrorism.

A new version of The Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed "Snooper's Charter" in the U.K., was published on Tuesday. The government was forced to rewrite an earlier draft of the bill because of lack of privacy safeguards.

The U.K. home secretary Theresa May said the new version provides stronger privacy protection, but critics remain deeply dissatisfied.

"Rather than a full redraft, we've been given cosmetic tweaks to a heavily criticized, deeply intrusive bill," said Eric King, the director of privacy campaign Don't Spy on Us.

Related: Apple promises privacy - but not on iCloud

The bill could force internet service providers to store data for 12 months, so they could be accessed by police. It would also give legal backing to bulk collection of internet traffic data.

Authorities would also be able to order tech companies to remove any encryption tools they have applied. A similar issue is at the heart of Apple's conflict with the FBI. Apple is refusing to comply with a court order to break into the iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino shooter.

Related: Judge sides with Apple over feds in New York

The government aims to pass the bill into a law by the end of the year. Critics say May is trying to push the legislation through quickly to avoid detailed scrutiny. A cross-party group of politicians wrote a letter to The Telegraph newspaper, saying that rushing the bill through parliament is "not in Britain's interest."

"The government is blundering on with its snooping power-grab completely disregarding the concerns being raised from all sides," Amnesty International said in a statement.

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