Online privacy: Home Office to write blank cheque for ‘snoopers’ charter’

Internet and phone companies will be forced to track email, Twitter, Facebook and other online data under new legislation

“The government is to offer a blank cheque to internet and phone firms that will be required to track everyone’s email, Twitter, Facebook and other internet use under legislation to be published on Thursday.

The Home Office has confirmed it will foot the bill, thought to run into tens and possibly hundreds of millions, for collecting and storing the extra social media and web browsing records needed to implement the scheme, which critics have dubbed an “online snooper’s charter”.

Ministers did not put a figure on the cost of the new scheme but said it would be far less than the £2bn price tag estimated when Labour put forward a web-tracking scheme based on a central Home Office database in 2006.

The Liberal Democrats are expected to scale back their criticism of the legislation, which is to be published in draft form on Thursday, after Nick Clegg’s intervention secured a series of safeguards, including a scrutiny inquiry by MPs and peers that will report by the end of November.

But the measure is expected to continue to attract fierce criticism from libertarian Conservatives, led by the former shadow home secretary David Davis, who this week attacked it again, calling it “expensive, unnecessary and a huge invasion of everyone’s privacy”.

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