The Home Office will create a database to store the details of every phone call made, every email sent and every web page visited by British citizens in the previous year under plans currently under discussion, it has emerged.
The Government wants to create the system to fight terrorism and crime. The police and security services believe it will make it easier to access important data as communications become more complex.
Telecoms firms and internet service providers (ISPs) have already been approached by the Home Office, which would be given customer records if the plans were realized.
The security services and police would then be able to access records for any individual over the previous 12 months by gaining permission through the courts.
The plans will raise concern from data protection and civil liberty campaigners and fuel objections to the perceived rise of a “Big Brother” state. There will be worries about the Home Office’s ability to safeguard the data from loss or theft, after recent incidents such as when the child benefit information of every family in Britain with a child under 16 were mislaid.
Criticism for ‘UK database’ plan
Plans for a super-database containing the details of all phone calls and e-mails sent in the UK have been heavily criticised by experts.
The government is considering the changes as part of its ongoing fight against serious crime and terrorism.
Assistant Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford has warned that the UK could be “sleepwalking into a surveillance society”.
Others have questioned how such a database could be made secure.
“While the public is “sleepwalking” into a surveillance society, the government seems to have its eyes wide open although, unfortunately, to everything except security,” said Jamie Cowper, data protection expert at data protection firm PGP Corporation.
“The bottom line is – information of this nature should only be held if – and only if – it can be demonstrated that an appropriate system of checks and balances is in place and the security of the information being stored is of paramount concern,” he added.
Public confidence in the governments’ ability to look after data has been dented in recent months with high profile failures, including the loss of a CD carrying all the personal details of every child benefit claimant.