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A surveillance camera is pictured near King's Cross in London. British citizens are used to being watched by their government, but is it being pushed too far?

Stacey Vanek Smith: Privacy advocates today protested a plan to massively extend eavesdropping powers of the British government. It wants to monitor all phone calls, emails and web traffic in the U.K. to keep up with hackers and other criminals.

From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: The British government can already find out who its citizens are contacting electronically. But they have to seek permission from a court. The planned new law would do away with that requirement. Critics say it would make it easier for the government to engage in mass eavesdropping.

Telecom and internet companies would have to record the destination, and time of very phone call, email, text message and website visit from the U.K. They would have to keep those records for two years. And make them available on demand to the government. Even some government supporters are aghast.

Here’s lawmaker David Davis talking to the BBC:

David Davis: They don’t need this law to protect is. This is an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary innocent people in vast numbers.

But privacy campaigners may well face a struggle to overturn the plan. There is much more tolerance of government surveillance in the U.K. than in the U.S. There are so many closed circuit TV cameras operating here that it’s reckoned the average Londoner is caught on film 300 times a day.

In London, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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