The U.K. government is set to announce measures to force internet service providers to maintain records of which customers use which IP addresses, so as to make online anonymity more difficult.

…This would force service providers to retain users’ web metadata to allow greater state surveillance of what people do online – something that is at least theoretically enabled by the DRIP Act that was recently rushed through Parliament, but only on a temporary basis until 2016. While the Lib Dems have consistently opposed this, they have long supported IP matching.

“The Home Office had gone quiet on the issue of IP address matching until it resurfaced as a result of deeply misleading claims made in Theresa May’s Conference speech,” the Lib Dems said in a self-congratulatory blog post on Sunday. “May accused the Liberal Democrats of putting children’s lives at risk by blocking the Snoopers’ Charter, citing cases dropped by the National Crime Agency. In fact it was the failure to match IP addresses that led to the failure of those cases.”

The move has also received a cautious welcome from the likes of Big Brother Watch and veteran Conservative rebel and civil liberties activist David Davis — with the conditions that its use has proper oversight and isn’t a bridge towards the reintroduction of the Snooper’s Charter, which May clearly wants.

The home secretary said in a statement emailed to me by the Home Office:

Loss of the capabilities on which we have always relied is the great danger we face. The Bill provides the opportunity to resolve the very real problems that exist around IP resolution and is a step in the right direction towards bridging the overall communications data capability gap

But I believe that we need to make further changes to the law. It is a matter of national security and we must keep on making the case for the Communications Data Bill until we get the changes we need… This data will only be available on a case by case basis, where necessary and proportionate, to public bodies approved by Parliament to acquire it for lawful purposes.

It appears that this would be an evidential tool as much as anything else; something to prove that a person accessed unlawful content, once their IP address has been found communicating with the server of that content. In a separate move, British ISPs recently agreed to stop people from seeing “extremist” material online.

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