Home Office chiefs are facing a furious backlash from MPs and civil liberties campaigners after teaming-up with UK internet providers to test ways to track people’s browsing history

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Home Office chiefs are facing a furious backlash from MPs and civil liberties campaigners after teaming-up with UK internet providers to test ways to track people’s browsing history.

In a move described by one MP as a ‘spectacular invasion of privacy’, the Home Office and the National Crime Agency (NCA) have conducted a secretive trial which allows them to obtain information on what internet sites people have visited.

If the ‘small scale’ scheme is a success, data collection systems could be rolled-out nationwide.

The trial, said to have involved two unnamed internet providers, uses powers from the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – dubbed the ‘Snooper’s Charter’. 

It allows the Government to request Internet Connection Records (ICRs) from telecoms companies.

These records contain websites a person has visited – though not specifically what they have accessed on those websites.

The trial has been going on for months and has been shrouded in secrecy – so much so that the two internet providers involved cannot be identified.

The Home Office said the project is in its early stages and is looking at what data might be able to be acquired, how useful it is and how it could be used. 

Its emergence has reignited rumbling privacy concerns, with campaigners saying the trial gives security officials access to the ‘most intrusive monitoring system of any democracy in history’.

MPs have also expressed fears that the latest project could lead to a mass invasion of privacy. 

Former Conservative party chairman, David Davis MP, said the move was a ‘spectacular invasion of privacy’ and warned the powers could be misused to target individuals or groups who opposed the government.

He told MailOnline: ‘If they are going to do this, what are they going to do with the data they collect?

The scope for it to be used for pressure or for blackmail is enormous.

‘The problem is not just how the data will be used but the storage of it as well. If hackers are able to get into the Pentagon, it could end up being an enormous honey-pot.’ 

Social media users also responded to the news by suggesting the move resembled something out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984’.   

Privacy rights groups have slammed the government for testing out 'snooping powers' by teaming up with two internet providers to track websites visited by their customers

Privacy rights groups have slammed the government for testing out 'snooping powers' by teaming up with two internet providers to track websites visited by their customers

Privacy rights groups have slammed the government for testing out ‘snooping powers’ by teaming up with two internet providers to track websites visited by their customers

The act allows the secretary of state to make an internet provider keep their records for up to a year, with a judge's approval. These records can include which websites their customers visit and how much data they download - but it will not show the exact content they looked at on the sites (stock photo)

The act allows the secretary of state to make an internet provider keep their records for up to a year, with a judge's approval. These records can include which websites their customers visit and how much data they download - but it will not show the exact content they looked at on the sites (stock photo)

The act allows the secretary of state to make an internet provider keep their records for up to a year, with a judge’s approval. These records can include which websites their customers visit and medicament veterinaire how much data they download – but it will not show the exact content they looked at on the sites (stock photo)

The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) allows the Home Secretary, subject to a senior judge’s approval, to compel an internet provider to keep their records for up to a year. 

But it must be under the suspicion of a ‘serious crime’ – one that could attract the minimum of a 12-month sentence. 

The ‘serious crime’ element was added in 2018 after the UK’s Court of Appeal ruled that the Government’s previous legislation breached people’s rights by collecting internet activity and phone records with no suspicion of ‘serious crime’ and no independent sign-off. 

<div class="art-ins mol-factbox floatRHS news" data-version="2" id="mol-d8b3a930-8374-11eb-bd0e-f70efdca9bc2" website Office teams up with internet firms to spy on customers

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