Britains anti-terrorism plans may result in invasion of peoples privacy

October 6th, 2008 - 5:15 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Oct 6 (ANI): The Government of UK is considering a 12 billion pounds plan to monitor the e-mail, telephone and Internet browsing records of every person in the country, in a bid to boost the fight against terrorism.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the huge eavesdropping programme would involve the creation of a mammoth central computer database to store hundreds of billions of individual pieces of communications traffic.

MI5, which is the UKs counter-intelligence and security agency, currently has to apply to the Home Secretary for warrants to intercept specific email and website traffic.

But, under the new plan, Internet and mobile phone networks could be monitored live by GCHQ, the Government listening post.

The Home Office said that no decision had been taken, but security officials claim live monitoring is necessary to pick up terrorist plots.

It would allow them to capture records like chat room discussions on password-protected Islamic extremist websites.

The annual number of phone calls and other electronic communications in the UK is predicted to nearly double from 230 billion in 2006 to 450 billion by 2016.

Last year, 57 billion text messages, or 1,800 a second, were sent. That rose from one billion in 1999.

The number of broadband Internet connections rose from 330,000 in 2001 to 18 million last year. Three billion e-mails are sent every day, or 35,000 every second.

One of the spurs for a central database is a concern over how that electronic communications data is currently stored by hundreds of different Internet service providers and private telephone companies.

Records may only be held for limited periods of time and are then lost which makes it impossible for police and the security services to establishing historical links, or so-called friendship trees, between terrorists.

If all communications information was centrally stored then links could be made between terrorist cells and other sympathizers could be identified.

The telephone and Internet companies are currently required to give records of calls or internet use to law enforcement agencies if a senior officer authorises that it is needed for an inquiry.

Last year, there were more than half a million such requests.

The cost of monitoring everything, and keeping it on a central database, has been estimated at 12 billion pounds and would dwarf the proposed cost of the identity cards programme.

According to Richard Clayton, a security expert at Cambridge University, the proposal would mean installing thousands of probes in telephone and computer networks which would re-route data to the central database. (ANI)

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