Nick Clegg has dismissed fresh pressure for a revival of the so-called Snoopers’ Charter – but insisted he backs other measures to bolster the online capabilities of the security services.
The Liberal Democrat leader branded the proposals, which David Cameron has pledged to revive if he is in power after the election, “un-British” and ineffective.
The comments, in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, came as the former director of MI5 warned anti-terrorism laws are “no longer fit for purpose”.
Lord Evans of Weardale said it is “much harder” than a decade ago for the authorities to access communications between terrorists and criminals, because they are discussing plots on platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat.
Mr Clegg said he agreed with Lord Evans and the police that the state needs to “retain the ability to intrude on the privacy” of such people.
But he said he is “uncomfortable” with the idea of retaining data about internet and social media use by “every single man woman and child in this country for a year”.
“It is a blanket approach to the retention of data of people who are innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever,” he said.
“It is not a very British thing to confer or imply guilt on the whole of the nation by retaining records of every website everyone has visited over the course of a year.”
Mr Clegg said the Snoopers’ Charter plans were “unproven, clunky, resource intensive”.
He went on: “Lots of experts looked at it and said this is a waste of resources, a waste of time. Why are we keeping records of every man, woman and child across the country when for starters, we tend to know where to look for the people who want to do us harm?”
The Deputy Prime Minister said the aim was to “find the needle without inferring guilt on the haystack”.
“New powers will need to be put on the statute book in the next parliament, and I will advocate them as much as any chisel-faced securocrat,” he went on.
“I want to keep us safe. It’s ludicrous this idea that people who care about our freedom don’t care about our safety.
“What I will not do… is saying that every single man, woman and child should have data about what they get up to online kept for a year.”