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By: MarkJ - 27 April, 2009 (12:27 PM)
The UK Home Office has launched a consultation into its Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), which is part of the wider Communications Data Bill and will see all YOUR email accesses and website visits (not content though) stored for a period of one year. The system is expected to cost a staggering £2bn over a 10-year period, though mercifully plans for a centralised government database to store all the information have been scrapped.

The UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said that her key priority was: "To protect the citizens of the UK. To do nothing is not an option as we would be failing in our duty to protect the public," she 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 would seek to do us harm. However, to be clear there are absolutely no plans for a single central store."

Personally we don't believe that monitoring the private personal activity of ordinary law-abiding citizens is the proper way to behave. It could also encourage the profiling of innocent people or even be abused for commercial/political gain. The EU is currently investigating use and abuse of related Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology (here).

The Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA) has welcomed today’s consultation into Communications Data. The ISPA said it was committed to assisting law enforcement agencies in the investigation of serious crimes and threats to national security, and supports effective legal measures that combat terrorism.

Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General said, "ISPA advocates a proportionate approach to data retention. To ensure that any updated law enforcement requirements do not place extra financial burdens on internet service providers, ISPA stresses the importance of cost recovery. We will continue discussions with the Home Office and other stakeholders on this matter and look forward to a constructive dialogue."

Still, of most concern will be who has access to view this data and how it is regulated. Recent drafts and amendments have indicated that local councils, the National Health Service (NHS) and even the Post Office could be granted permission. Since when did they need to know about our website and email activity?

Naturally the government is keen to avoid talking about that, instead plugging the system as a means of tackling online/cyber crime and terrorism. The consultation, called ‘Protecting the public in a changing communications environment’, hopes to find the right balance between privacy and security by suggesting ways to collect and store communications data; ends on 20th July 2009.

It's worth adding that mobile phone calls, text messages and land-line call logs (again, not the call or txt itself) are also part of the data that will be tracked. ISPreview published its own article on the matter during May last year - 'ISPs Raise Concerns Over Data Retention'.
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