UK to Monitor All Communications
The UK Home Office has issued an edict requiring all communication service providers (CSP) to record all internet contacts between people. The recordings are reportedly part of new surveillance tactics being put into place by the UK police.
The proposed new system requires tracking of all e-mails, phone calls and internet usage of subscribers, including their visits to social networking websites. Announcing introduction of the new strategy, home secretary Jacqui Smith informed that initial plans of a massive database have now been dropped, but security services will be keeping tabs on internet usage.
According to the home secretary, the revolution in communications has no longer left the option of “doing nothing” open. But instead of a single central database, the Home Office will be asking internet service providers and mobile phone companies to expand the information details they have on their subscribers and organize it in a manner useful for the police and security agencies.
Under the new plan, the CSPs will also record third party data or information such as visits to online chatrooms or social networking websites like Facebook. The data will cover internet contacts between people but not the content or any personal information like photographs. It will then be made available to security agencies for analysis of possible criminal or terrorist threats.
The data will also carry information linking it to specific devices such as mobile phones, home and work computers. The project is estimated to cost £2bn including the compensation for the communications companies for their participation. The arrangement expands techniques such as monitoring of telephone conversations and interception of other communications currently being used by security agencies.
“Communications data is an essential tool for law enforcement agencies to track murderers, paedophiles, save lives and tackle crime,” Ms. Smith said. “Advances in communications mean that there are ever more sophisticated ways to communicate and we need to ensure that we keep up with the technology being used by those who seek to do us harm. It is essential that the police and other crime fighting agencies have the tools they need to do their job, However to be clear, there are absolutely no plans for a single central store.”
While data will be collected and collated, all existing legal safeguards under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act would continue to apply. Any request for access to the data would require top level authorisation from security services such as the police force. The Home Office is also working on drawing up a limited list of security agencies that will be provided access to the data.