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UK intelligence to monitor electronic communications
By Europe correspondent Rachael Brown, wires
The British government is set to unveil legislation that will allow it to monitor its citizens' phone calls, emails, text messages and internet use.
The UK Home Office says technological advances mean it needs new powers to tackle terrorism and crime.
Internet firms will be required to give the intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), access to communications on demand.
It will allow officers to monitor who is calling who, and for how long, or what websites they are visiting.
The legislation also covers social networking sites.
Former shadow home secretary David Davis says it is an unnecessary extension of the state's ability to snoop on ordinary people.
"It's a sort of Tom Cruise film script, not a reality," he said.
Civil liberty groups say it will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance as China and Iran.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties group Liberty, denounced the move as "a pretty drastic step in a democracy".
But Britain's home office interior ministry said ministers were preparing to legislate "as soon as parliamentary time allows", saying it would be data, not content, that would be monitored.
"It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public," a spokesman said.