U.K. police forces have asked all communications firms, including internet service providers and mobile phone companies, to keep records of all Internet contact between people.
Now that it has been confirmed that terrorist organisations and other unscrupulous groups are using the latest technologies to communicate and organise their actions, it has become essential for law enforcers to keep track of the various communications methods which these people may employ.
Earlier, plans had been afoot to create a database, on a government run computer system, for all communication taking place via email, phone calls, social networks etc. This plan has, however, been shelved, as it was seen as being too invasive, apart from the cost and other practical difficulties in setting it up.
Communications service providers will be required to store only the contacts people make, and not the content. They will, however, have to record some third-party data or information that is partly based overseas. The proposed system will not record personal information such as the messages or photos which are posted.
Information stored by the communications firms will be accessible by authorities such as the police and MI5 when required. They will require top level authorisation from a public body to do so.
Home Secretary, Ms. Jacqui Smith said to the BBC, “Communications data is an essential tool for law enforcement agencies to track murderers, paedophiles, save lives and tackle crime.”
The project is estimated to cost about 2 billion pounds, and while the Liberal Democrats are pleased that there will be no centralised database, many still feel that a careful balance will have to be maintained between investigative powers and the right to privacy. Some even believe that this project is a colossal waste of time and public money.