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Privacy call for internet browsing

More than eight out of 10 internet users believe browsing history should be kept private, a new survey has shown.

The poll, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust one year after US whistleblower Edward Snowdon leaked top-secret files revealing the activities of UK and US intelligence agencies, showed 85% believe it is “fairly important”, “very important” or “essential” to keep browsing records private.

Only 12% believe it is not important, the survey conducted by Ipsos Mori showed.

In addition, respondents supported a call by the Don’t Spy On US campaign for senior judges rather than ministers to sign off on warrants for data collection of electronic communications, when asked where oversight of the intelligence agencies should lie.

Emma Carr, acting director of Big Brother Watch, said: ” This research clearly highlights that the British public has little faith that politicians are properly monitoring how the security services are using surveillance powers.

“T he Deputy Prime Minister, the Shadow Home Secretary and the Home Affairs Committee have all recognised that our surveillance law needs reviewing and oversight needs to be much stronger. Those who claim everything is fine are looking increasingly ridiculous.”

Mr Snowden leaked top-secret documents to a number of locations, including to the Guardian newspaper, revealing details concerning America’s National Security Agency (NSA) and UK listening post GCHQ.

Critics have claimed Mr Snowden’s disclosures have aided terrorists, while others believe the move could be illegal.

Earlier this year, MI5 director general Andrew Parker warned in a speech that revealing details about the work of GCHQ was a ”gift to terrorists”, while Sir John Sawers, head of MI6, said terrorists were ”rubbing their hands with glee”.

Supporters believe the leaks exposed an abuse of powers among the security and intelligence services in the UK and US and had contributed to a much-needed debate on their oversight and role.

The Don’t Spy On Us campaign is a coalition of freedom of expression and privacy campaigners including ARTICLE19, Big Brother Watch, English PEN, Liberty, Open Rights Group and Privacy International.

Results were based on a face-to-face survey of 1,958 Britons aged 15 and over conducted between April 25 and May 3.

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