Government spy programme aims to monitor every phone call, text and online activity
Details about text messages, phone calls, emails and every website visited by members of the public will be kept on record in a bid to combat terrorism.
The Government will order broadband providers, landline and mobile phone companies to save the information for up to a year under a new security scheme.
What is said in the texts, emails or phone calls will not be kept but information on the senders, recipients and their geographical whereabouts will be saved.
Direct messages to users of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter will also be saved and so will information exchanged between players in online video games.
The information will be stored by individual companies rather than the government.
According to the initiative called the Communications Capabilities Development Programme, the data will be stored for a year and will be available to the secret services.
The security scheme requires Internet providers, landline and mobile phone operators to police their clients in an effort to combat terrorism.
What is said in text messages and phone calls will not be recorded, but much other data, including geographical whereabouts or people involved will be.
The plan is said to have been prepared by the Home Office in collaboration with home security service MI5, the foreign intelligence service MI6 and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the body responsible for signals intelligence and information assurance for UK’s government and armed forces.
Rights activists fear potential abuse of the surveillance, as well as hacker threats to the database storing the personal details collected.
“Britain is already one of the most spied on countries off-line and this is a shameful attempt to watch everything we do online in the same way,” Nick Pickles, director of the liberty organization Big Brother Watch told the Daily Mail newspaper.
The plan is expected to be announced in May in the Queen’s Speech. It is a rewrite of a similar plan, which was developed by the Labour party, but had been shelved in November 2009 due to lack of public support. Then in opposition the Conservatives criticized Labour’s “reckless” record on privacy.
“The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats started their government with a big pledge to roll back the surveillance state,” Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. “No state in history has been able to gather the level of information proposed – it’s a way of collecting everything about who we talk to just in case something turns up.”#Link
The news has sparked huge concerns about the risk of hacking and fears that the sensitive information could be used to send spam emails and texts.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Britain is already one of the most spied on countries off-line and this is a shameful attempt to watch everything we do online in the same way.
‘The vast quantities of data that would be collected would arguably make it harder for the security services to find threats before a crime is committed, and involve a wholesale invasion of all our privacy online that is hugely disproportionate and wholly unnecessary.
‘The data would be a honey pot for hackers and foreign governments, not to mention at huge risk of abuse by those responsible for maintaining the databases.It would be the end of privacy online.
‘The Home Secretary may have changed but it seems the Home Office’s desire to spy on every citizen’s web use and phone calls remains the same as it was under Labour.
‘At a time when the internet is empowering people across the world to embrace democracy, it is shameful for one of the world’s oldest democracies to be pursuing the kind same kind of monitoring that has a stranglehold on civil society in China and Iran.’
It is believed the Home Office started talks with communication companies a few months ago and could officially be announced in May.
The plans have been drawn up by home security service MI5, MI6 which operates abroad, and the GCHQ, the governments communication headquarters which looks after the country’s Signal Intelligence.
Security services would then be able to request information on people they have under surveillance and could piece together their movements with information provided.
Details of email correspondence and every website visited will also be kept
Mobile phone records are able to show within yards where a call was made from and emails will be tracked using a computer’s IP address.
Security services are said to be concerned about the ability of terrorists to avoid tracking through modern technology and are believed to have lobbied Home Secretary Theresa May to introduce the scheme.
According to The Sunday Times ministers are planning to include the spy initiative called the Communications Capabilities Development Programme in the Queen’s speech in May.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: ‘This would be a systematic effort to spy on all of our digital communications.
‘No state in history has been able to gather the level of information proposed,’ he said to The Sunday Times.
THE SMARTPHONE APPS THAT SPY ON YOUR CHILDREN
Smartphone apps are being used by the companies that sell them to store information about your children.
The apps can gather information of their whereabouts, who they are talking to and even store photographs.
Small print in the information provided before it is downloaded gives permission for the information to be accessed.
The Sunday Times examined 200 apps available and out of those 170 provided the right to access some information stored on the phone.
Developers have said they need the information in order to ensure the products work properly but some of the data accessed has little relevance.
Last week it was discovered the app for Twitter had been secretly accessing mobile phone address books.
Director of Big Brother Watch, Nick Pickles, told The Sunday Times: ‘How many parents knew that a simple mobile phone game would give someone the ability to access their child’s location, see what their camera lens is looking at or see the phone number of who is calling their child?’
Mr Pickles added it was proof of how weak regulation was. #Link