It was only a matter of time before the British government would play the terrorism card in a bid to spy on its citizens.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the UK government is drawing up new plans which will force landline, mobile phone companies and broadband providers to store data for a year and make it available to any spook who asks for it.
The required databases will not record calls, texts or emails, and will just store the numbers or email addresses which are being sent, it is claimed.
It will mean that the spooks will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook.
Any messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.
The plan is the work of extensive negotiations between the Home Office and ISPs and could be officially announced as early as May.
The government is allegedly expecting civil liberties groups to go mad when the bill is announced. It will have a cunning plan to say something like: “if you are not in support of the new law, you love terrorists and paedophiles.” This strategy is being tried by the Canadian government and is probably seen by the Coalition government as a winner.
There are also some fears that the data stores will become targets for hackers who want to use the personal information in phishing or spamming.
The Telegraph said that the plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. Rather than the government holding the information centrally, companies including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the records themselves. This would be accessed real time by the spooks.
Mobile phone records of calls and text messages pinpoint within yards where a call was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing histories can be matched to an IP address. The idea is it will remove the need for spooks to shadow those who they are investigating.
The irony of it all is that the scheme was drawn up by the Labour government called the Intercept Modernisation Programme. The only difference is that the Labour scheme would have created a central database of all the information. This was slammed by almost everyone and the government at the time pulled it.
At the time, the Conservatives slammed Labour’s “reckless” record on privacy.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil liberties campaign organisation, said that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats started their government with a pledge to roll back the surveillance state. But it seems that once they got into power, they saw the advantages of collecting everything about who we talk to – just in case something turns up.