Jacqui Smith plans broad new Big Brother surveillance powers. Telephone calls, internet use and email will be monitored by the
police as part of a broad extension of the ability of the state to snoop on citizens.
Ministers were already planning a massive Big Brother database to log data contained in emails and phone calls but have decided to go even further in view of the current threat level.
The original proposal, which was this week criticised by Lord Carlisle, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, had been due to be put before MPs in the Communications Data Bill next month.
However, in a speech, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced that she was delaying the Bill in order to expand the extent of surveillance powers open to the security services, while consulting further on the best way to win public support for
In the speech to the IPPR think tank, Smith said communications data was not at present being routinely stored, and needed to be if terrorists and serious criminals were to be prevented from striking. The plan would not include recording the
contents of people's messages and appropriate safeguards would be put in place, but Smith said it was "vital" to maintain Britain's capacity to combat terrorism.
She added: There are no plans for an enormous database which will contain the content of your emails, the texts that you send or the chats you have on the phone or online. Nor are we going to give local authorities the power to trawl through
the database in the interests of investigating lower level criminality under the spurious cover of counter-terrorist legislation.
Snooping extension to gaming and social networking sites
The government is drawing up plans to give the police and security and intelligence agencies new powers to access personal data
held by internet services, including social network sites such as Facebook and Bebo and gaming networks.
At present, security and intelligence agencies can demand to see telephone and email traffic from traditional communications services providers (CSPs), which store the personal data for business purposes such as billing.
The rapid expansion of new CSPs - such as gaming, social networking, auction and video sites - and technologies such as wireless internet and broadband present a serious problem for the police, MI5, customs and other government agencies, the
security sources say.
Sites such as Bebo and Facebook provide their services free, relying mainly on advertising for income. They do not hold records of their customers, many of whom in any case use pseudonyms.
Criminals could use a chat facility - they are not actually playing the game but we can't actually get hold of the data, said one official.
Criminal terrorists are exploiting free social networking sites, said another Whitehall security official, who added that the problem was compounded by the increasing use of data rather than voice in communications: People have many
accounts and sign up as Mickey Mouse and no one knows who they are. We have to do something. We need to collect data CSPs do not hold.
Whitehall officials say that with the help of GCHQ - the electronic eavesdropping centre with a huge information storage capacity - the government is looking at different options that will be put out for consultation. They declined today to spell
out the options but said that whatever is decided will need new legislation.
Despite this reticence, it is clear that the government wants to be able to demand that the new generation of CSPs collect data from their customers so the security services can access them The response from the networks is likely to be hostile,
not least because of the potential costs involved.
If the government, as expected, offers to pay for any new data access scheme, it is likely to cost taxpayers billions of pounds.
The plan will need international cooperation since many of the new CSPs are based abroad, notably in the US.
Jacqui Smith faces a parliamentary backlash over Orwellian plans to intercept details of email, internet, telephone and
other data records of every person in Britain. Labour MPs joined opposition parties in expressing doubts about plans announced by the Home Secretary which could lead to a vast database of information about Britons' calls and internet habits.
They warned that MPs, emboldened by the Government's decision to ditch plans to hold terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge, would not accept this extension of state power.
The scale of the Government's ambitions to hold data on email, internet and phone use emerged as government sources made it clear they needed new powers to obtain details of social networking sites on the internet, video sites, web-based telephone
calls and even online computer games.
Civil liberties campaigners have expressed horror at the plans. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, warned: Extreme caution needs to be taken. The Government needs to ensure that information-gathering is targeted
and wiped and not collected just because it's possible."
Labour left-winger John McDonnell called the proposals Big Brother gone mad , while Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, added: There is not a lot of confidence that we can hold on to data we collect already.
The plans were condemned by the Government's own terrorism watchdog. Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist laws, said the raw idea of the database was awful and called for controls to stop government
agencies using it to conduct fishing expeditions into the private lives of the public.
Good morning Mr Chips, citizen 14Z3J373/d.
You were monitored visiting spanking.com.
This is deemed 'inappropriate' for the
Your teaching licence is permanently
Rejoice that your economic prosperity
is safe from terrorist attack.
Plans to create a database monstrosity of mobile phone and internet records were defended last night by the Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, who said critics of the scheme were giving a licence to terrorists to kill.
Speaking on the BBC's Question Time programme, Hoon admitted he was prepared to go quite a long way in undermining civil liberties to stop people being killed, and added the biggest civil liberty of all is not to be killed by a
Hoon insisted the Government aimed to extend powers that already exist for ordinary telephone calls to cover data and information relayed over the internet: If [terrorists] are going to use the internet to communicate with each other and we
don't have the power to deal with that, then you are giving a licence to terrorists to kill people.
Good morning Mr Smith, citizen 14Z3J373/d.
Your children were monitored
Please surrender your children to the
NewLabour Re-allocation &
Rejoice that your family is
protected from terrorist threat!
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith isn't known for the clarity of her pronouncements on technology. And as she confirmed the government's plan to proceed with the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), she limited herself to the spin of building a
universal communications surveillance apparatus.
The details of the accompanying Communications Data Bill will be opened to consultation in the new year, she said, with the aim of achieving consensus with "interested parties". Smith was keen to emphasise the content of every phone,
internet and mobile communication will not be harvested, but the details of who contacts whom, when and where. That distinction is likely be the cornerstone of attempts to sell IMP to MPs and a public wearied by the erosion of civil liberties and
major government data losses.
The follow-up propaganda push has already begun. In The Times an unnamed source, clearly with a strong desire to see IMP built, spoonfed a dubious and old story about the threat posed by Skype and other VoIP applications to counter-terror
operations. The hungry Thunderer hacks swallowed the security services' line that internet phone calls are crippling fight against terrorism . No quotation marks in that headline, no opposing view in the story: it's being crippled people -
Jack & Jacqui
Jack: We'll need an army to sift
through this berdatabase
Jacqui: Funny you should say that,
take a look outside!
Anyone buying a new mobile phone will have to show a passport as proof of identity and be registered on a national database, it was claimed last night.
But civil rights organisations warned the move represented another serious step on the way to creating a surveillance society in the UK.
It is understood any such move would apply to Scotland because it would come under the terms of the Data Protection Act, which is reserved by Westminster. It would also have to apply to the whole of the UK if it was to be effective in tackling
According to a newspaper report last night, the office of Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, said it anticipated that a compulsory mobile phone register would be unveiled as part of a law which ministers would announce next year.
A spokeswoman was quoted as saying: With regards to the database, that would contain details of all mobile users, including pay-as-you-go. We would expect that this information would be included in the database proposed in the draft
Communications Data Bill.
The creation of the register would affect the owners of all 72 million mobile phones in the UK. But it is the owners of the country's 40 million prepaid mobiles who are the real target.
The move aims to close a 'loophole' in plans being drawn up by GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, to create a huge database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in
The 'Big Brother' database would have limited value to police and MI5 if it did not store details of the ownership of more than half the mobile phones in the country.
Simon Davies, of Privacy International, was quoted as saying he understood that several mobile phone firms had discussed the proposed database in talks with government officials.
The article claimed that contingency planning for such a move is already thought to be under way at Vodafone, where 72% of its 18.5 million UK customers use pay-as-you-go.
So I was reading about the security services' concern over internet anonymity, and something was bothering me. There was a line in
The Guardian. 'People have many accounts and sign up as Mickey Mouse and no one knows who they are', a Whitehall source had said. 'We have to do something.' And I was perturbed.
Reading it again, though, it hit me. A Whitehall source? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I had a sudden hunch. Maybe, I found myself thinking, a Whitehall source was not this person's real name.
Anonymity is the great democratic boon of the internet age. And yes, some people will exploit it in order to join social networking groups called People Who Want To Bathe In the Blood Of The Slaughtered Infidel , or whatever. Most, though,
do not. They just use it in order to express views that they hold dearly, and perhaps passionately, without having to fear that those who oppose these views will come and lurk with a chainsaw in the shrubbery of their front gardens. Or arrest
them. Or associate them forever with some comment which, on reflection, makes them look like a bit of a berk. You'd think Mr Whitehall Source would understand that. Even better than most.
Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Good one Jacqui, but
isn't it a little expensive.
Jacqui: Wait until you see my
proposals for Citizen
Data Non Disclosure Charges
Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, faces a revolt from her senior officials over plans to build a database monstrosity holding information on every telephone call, e-mail and internet visit made in the UK.
A significant body of Home Office officials dealing with serious and organised crime are privately lobbying against the plans, a leaked memo has revealed.
They believe the proposals are impractical, disproportionate, politically unattractive and possibly unlawful from a human rights perspective , the memo says.
Their stance puts them at loggerheads with the spy-masters at GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, who have been driving through the plans.
The Home Office rebels appear to have forced Smith to stall plans to announce a bill in the Queen's speech authorising the database. She has instead ordered her officials to review the proposals.
This weekend a top law enforcement body further dented the government's case for the database. Jack Wraith, of the data communications group of the Association of Chief Police Officers, described the plans as mission creep . He said there
was an inherent fear of the data falling into the wrong hands: If someone's got enough personal data on you and they don't afford it the right protection and that data falls into the wrong hands, then it becomes a threat to you.
Smith is already studying less explosive but equally effective alternatives. One option involves a system based on sending automated requests to databases already held by telephone and internet firms.
Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), told ministers not to "break the back of freedom" by creating irreversible powers that could be misused to spy on individual citizens and so threaten Britain's hard-won
The Communications Data Bill would give the Government the legal authority to collect a database of every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public. Even though the Government insists that this bill would reduce terrorism
(which it probably will not), this is an intolerable intrusion into the privacy of free citizens and a step towards a dystopian "Big Brother" state. The Bill must be quashed to protect civil liberties and halt the slippery slope towards
an Orwellian 1984-type nightmare.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has given a warning of the dangers of plans for a massive expansion of Big Brother
state surveillance and of the growth of a security state.
Sir Ken Macdonald, who heads the Crown Prosecution Service, said that the enormous powers of access to information that technology had given the state should be used with great care: We need to take very great care not to fall into a way
of life in which freedom's back is broken by the relentless pressure of a security state.
Technology gave the state enormous powers to access to knowledge and information about each one of us. And the ability to collect and store it at will; every second of every day, in everything we do.
But Sir Ken, giving the inaugural Crown Prosecution Service lecture in London, called for level-headedness and legislative restraint.
We need to understand that it is in the nature of state power that decisions taken in the next few months and years about how the state may use these powers, and to what extent are likely to be irreversible They will be with us forever. And
they in turn will be built upon on. So we should take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can't bear.
Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Good one Jacqui, can't wait to
read the consultation results.
Jacqui: No need to wait, we just
listen in to what people are saying
Internet black boxes will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government's plans for a giant big brother database, The Independent has learnt.
Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the black box technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database
controlled by the Government.
Plans to create a database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK have provoked a huge public outcry. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, described it as step too far and the
Government's own terrorism watchdog said that as a raw idea it was awful.
Nevertheless, ministers have said they are committed to consulting on the new Communications Data Bill early in the new year. News that the Government is already preparing the ground by trying to allay the concerns of the internet industry is
bound to raise suspicions about ministers' true intentions. Further details of the database emerged on Monday at a meeting of internet service providers (ISPs) in London where representatives from BT, AOL Europe, O2 and BSkyB were given a
PowerPoint presentation of the issues and the technology surrounding the Government's Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), the name given by the Home Office its database monstrosity proposal.
Whitehall experts working on the IMP unit told the meeting the security and intelligence agencies said the technology would allow them to create greater capacity to monitor all communication traffic on the internet. The black boxes
are an attractive option for the internet industry because they would be secure and not require any direct input from the ISPs.
During the meeting Whitehall officials also tried to reassure the industry by suggesting that many smaller ISPs would be unaffected by the black boxes as these would be installed upstream on the network and hinted that all costs would be
met by the Government.
A source close to the meeting said: They said they only wanted to return to a position they were in before the emergence of internet communication, when they were able to monitor all correspondence with a police suspect. The difference here is
they will be in a much better position to spy on many more people on the basis of their internet behaviour. Also there's a grey area between what is content and what is traffic. Is what is said in a chat room content or just traffic?
A spokesman for the Home Office said that Monday's meeting provided a chance to engage with small communication service providers ahead of the formal public consultation next year.
Hugely controversial Big Brother plans to store details of every internet click, email and telephone call that we make are
being revived by the Coalition, it has emerged.
Police, security services and other public bodies would be able to find out which websites a person had visited, and when, where and to whom a text or call was made.
The plan – which was kicked into the long grass by Labour amid a public outcry – will put the Government on a collision course with civil liberties groups.
They argue it is a snooper's charter which will allow the state to spy on millions of innocent citizens.
So far ministers have insisted they want to provide a correction in favour of liberty when it comes to the powers required to protect the public. But this is sounding pretty weak now ministers have been persuaded of the case to give the
police and security officials enhanced rights to access the public's communications.
Firm plans will be published later this year on how the personal information should be stored.
Privacy International is reviving its challenge against the UK government's right to issue general hacking warrants.
The group has filed for the High Court to review the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) decision that ruled the general warrants are legal.
At the moment the government issues general warrants to organisations such as GCHQ, allowing them to hack computers and phones of both UK and non-UK residents without the need for judges to sign-off the warrant first.
Privacy International is worried about the scope of general warrants, saying that it could mean an entire class of unidentified persons or property, such as all mobile phones in Nottingham could be hacked. It said that:
The common law is clear that a warrant must target an identified individual or group of identified individuals.
The Snoopers' Charter, currently under consideration in parliament, is set to write this general government hacking capability into law.