Government powers to access millions of people's private phone records are set to be extended to email accounts and website records, ministers have said.
The news means that councils or quangoes could access private email accounts or examine internet phone records to snoop on taxpayers.
It has emerged that Sir Paul Kennedy, the spying watchdog, said they were not using their powers to examine phone bills and call records enough.
Since last October phone companies have had to retain information about all landline and mobile phone calls made by members of the public for one year, and hand over the data to more than 650 public bodies and quangos.
The move, approved by Parliament last July under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, was justified as a vital tool in the fight against terrorism but was then extended to enable council use to investigate trivial offences.
The Home Office said it wanted to extend the powers to include people's access to websites, email accounts and even phone calls made over the internet using services like Skype.
A Home Office consultation document on implementing an EU directive on electronic communications said the data would only be made available to assist in the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime.
[The government have also been busy redefining lesser crimes as 'serious']
The cost of the new plan is likely to be borne by internet and telecommunications companies, although the Home Office said this would form part of the consultation.
The move has been heavily criticised, with claims that extending the powers was further evidence of a "snoopers' charter".
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: Ministers have proven time and time again that they are not to be trusted with sensitive data, but they seem intent on pressing ahead with this snoopers' charter. We will be told it is
for use in combating terrorism and organised crime but if RIPA powers are anything to go by, it will soon be used to spy on ordinary people's kids, pets and bins. Once again, the Government seems prepared to be more invasive than its EU
counterparts in seeking to hold phone records for two years rather than six months.
Guy Herbert, a spokesman for the No2ID campaign, said the information would be made available to hundreds of official bodies responsible under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. He said: As ever with the database state this is
a mass-surveillance measure for the retrospective convenience of officialdom in general.
The Home Office said that enforcement officers would only have access to where emails were sent or received from and not their content. A spokesman said: This data is a vital tool to investigations and intelligence gathering in support of
national security and crime. Communications data allows investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time. It also gives
investigators the potential to identify other forensic opportunities, identify witnesses and premises of evidential interest. Many alibis are proven or refuted through the use of communications data. Without the directive investigative
opportunities will increasingly be lost.
Every call you make, every e-mail you send, every website you visit - I'll be watching you.
That is the hope of Sir David Pepper who, as the director of GCHQ, the government's secret eavesdropping agency in Cheltenham, is plotting the biggest surveillance system ever created in Britain.
From his office in the agency's famous doughnut building, Pepper is masterminding an innocent-sounding project called the Interception Modernisation Programme .
The scope of the project, classified top secret, is said by officials to be so vast that it will dwarf the estimated £5 billion ministers have set aside for the identity cards programme. It is intended to fight terrorism and crime. Civil
liberties groups, however, say it poses an unprecedented intrusion into ordinary citizens' lives.
Aimed at placing a live tap on every electronic communication in Britain, it will dwarf other big brother surveillance projects such as the number plate recognition system and the spread of CCTV.
Pepper and his opposite number at MI6, Sir John Scarlett, are facing opposition from mandarins in the Treasury and Cabinet Office who fear both its cost and ethical implications.
The spy bosses say a central database is essential to capture the array of communications between terrorists planning to attack Britain. Draft e-mails, chatroom discussions and internet browsing on encrypted jihadist websites are the
preferred forums for Al-Qaeda cells to plan their attacks, they say. However, other officials and many in the business and academic community are wary.
A spokesman for the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said yesterday that this summer he had called for a public debate about government proposals for the state to retain people's internet and phone records.
The commissioner warned that it is likely that such a scheme would be a step too far for the British way of life. Proposals that threaten such intrusion into people's lives must be properly debated, the spokesman said.
Despite the lack of public debate, Pepper's officials have been aggressively marketing his plans in a round of White-hall briefings over the past few weeks.
But there are mounting concerns at the Treasury about the costs of Pepper's project. According to Richard Clayton, a security expert at Cambridge University, the system will require the insertion of “thousands” of black box probes into the
country's computer and telephone networks.
Known as Deep Packet Inspection equipment, these probes will “steal” the data, analyse and decode the information and then route it direct to a government-run database.
No one yet knows exactly how to ensure police and intelligence agencies do not abuse their access to the database.
Jacqui Smith plans broad new Big Brother surveillance powers. Telephone calls, internet use and email will be monitored by the police as part of a broad extension of the ability of the state to snoop on citizens.
Ministers were already planning a massive Big Brother database to log data contained in emails and phone calls but have decided to go even further in view of the current threat level.
The original proposal, which was this week criticised by Lord Carlisle, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, had been due to be put before MPs in the Communications Data Bill next month.
However, in a speech, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced that she was delaying the Bill in order to expand the extent of surveillance powers open to the security services, while consulting further on the best way to win public support
for the plan.
In the speech to the IPPR think tank, Smith said communications data was not at present being routinely stored, and needed to be if terrorists and serious criminals were to be prevented from striking. The plan would not include recording the
contents of people's messages and appropriate safeguards would be put in place, but Smith said it was "vital" to maintain Britain's capacity to combat terrorism.
She added: There are no plans for an enormous database which will contain the content of your emails, the texts that you send or the chats you have on the phone or online. Nor are we going to give local authorities the power to trawl through
the database in the interests of investigating lower level criminality under the spurious cover of counter-terrorist legislation.
Snooping extension to gaming and social networking sites
The government is drawing up plans to give the police and security and intelligence agencies new powers to access personal data held by internet services, including social network sites such as Facebook and Bebo and gaming networks.
At present, security and intelligence agencies can demand to see telephone and email traffic from traditional communications services providers (CSPs), which store the personal data for business purposes such as billing.
The rapid expansion of new CSPs - such as gaming, social networking, auction and video sites - and technologies such as wireless internet and broadband present a serious problem for the police, MI5, customs and other government agencies, the
security sources say.
Sites such as Bebo and Facebook provide their services free, relying mainly on advertising for income. They do not hold records of their customers, many of whom in any case use pseudonyms.
Criminals could use a chat facility - they are not actually playing the game but we can't actually get hold of the data, said one official.
Criminal terrorists are exploiting free social networking sites, said another Whitehall security official, who added that the problem was compounded by the increasing use of data rather than voice in communications: People have many
accounts and sign up as Mickey Mouse and no one knows who they are. We have to do something. We need to collect data CSPs do not hold.
Whitehall officials say that with the help of GCHQ - the electronic eavesdropping centre with a huge information storage capacity - the government is looking at different options that will be put out for consultation. They declined today to spell
out the options but said that whatever is decided will need new legislation.
Despite this reticence, it is clear that the government wants to be able to demand that the new generation of CSPs collect data from their customers so the security services can access them The response from the networks is likely to be hostile,
not least because of the potential costs involved.
If the government, as expected, offers to pay for any new data access scheme, it is likely to cost taxpayers billions of pounds.
The plan will need international cooperation since many of the new CSPs are based abroad, notably in the US.
Jacqui Smith faces a parliamentary backlash over Orwellian plans to intercept details of email, internet, telephone and other data records of every person in Britain. Labour MPs joined opposition parties in expressing doubts about plans
announced by the Home Secretary which could lead to a vast database of information about Britons' calls and internet habits.
They warned that MPs, emboldened by the Government's decision to ditch plans to hold terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge, would not accept this extension of state power.
The scale of the Government's ambitions to hold data on email, internet and phone use emerged as government sources made it clear they needed new powers to obtain details of social networking sites on the internet, video sites, web-based
telephone calls and even online computer games.
Civil liberties campaigners have expressed horror at the plans. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, warned: Extreme caution needs to be taken. The Government needs to ensure that information-gathering is targeted
and wiped and not collected just because it's possible."
Labour left-winger John McDonnell called the proposals Big Brother gone mad , while Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, added: There is not a lot of confidence that we can hold on to data we collect already.
The plans were condemned by the Government's own terrorism watchdog. Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist laws, said the raw idea of the database was awful and called for controls to stop government
agencies using it to conduct fishing expeditions into the private lives of the public.
Jack & Jacqui
Jack: We'll need an army to sift
through this berdatabase
Jacqui: Funny you should say that,
take a look outside!
Anyone buying a new mobile phone will have to show a passport as proof of identity and be registered on a national database, it was claimed last night.
But civil rights organisations warned the move represented another serious step on the way to creating a surveillance society in the UK.
It is understood any such move would apply to Scotland because it would come under the terms of the Data Protection Act, which is reserved by Westminster. It would also have to apply to the whole of the UK if it was to be effective in tackling
According to a newspaper report last night, the office of Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, said it anticipated that a compulsory mobile phone register would be unveiled as part of a law which ministers would announce next year.
A spokeswoman was quoted as saying: With regards to the database, that would contain details of all mobile users, including pay-as-you-go. We would expect that this information would be included in the database proposed in the draft
Communications Data Bill.
The creation of the register would affect the owners of all 72 million mobile phones in the UK. But it is the owners of the country's 40 million prepaid mobiles who are the real target.
The move aims to close a 'loophole' in plans being drawn up by GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, to create a huge database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in
The 'Big Brother' database would have limited value to police and MI5 if it did not store details of the ownership of more than half the mobile phones in the country.
Simon Davies, of Privacy International, was quoted as saying he understood that several mobile phone firms had discussed the proposed database in talks with government officials.
The article claimed that contingency planning for such a move is already thought to be under way at Vodafone, where 72% of its 18.5 million UK customers use pay-as-you-go.
Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Good one Jacqui, but
isn't it a little expensive.
Jacqui: Wait until you see my
proposals for Citizen
Data Non Disclosure Charges
Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, faces a revolt from her senior officials over plans to build a database monstrosity holding information on every telephone call, e-mail and internet visit made in the UK.
A significant body of Home Office officials dealing with serious and organised crime are privately lobbying against the plans, a leaked memo has revealed.
They believe the proposals are impractical, disproportionate, politically unattractive and possibly unlawful from a human rights perspective , the memo says.
Their stance puts them at loggerheads with the spy-masters at GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, who have been driving through the plans.
The Home Office rebels appear to have forced Smith to stall plans to announce a bill in the Queen's speech authorising the database. She has instead ordered her officials to review the proposals.
This weekend a top law enforcement body further dented the government's case for the database. Jack Wraith, of the data communications group of the Association of Chief Police Officers, described the plans as mission creep . He said there
was an inherent fear of the data falling into the wrong hands: If someone's got enough personal data on you and they don't afford it the right protection and that data falls into the wrong hands, then it becomes a threat to you.
Smith is already studying less explosive but equally effective alternatives. One option involves a system based on sending automated requests to databases already held by telephone and internet firms.
Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), told ministers not to "break the back of freedom" by creating irreversible powers that could be misused to spy on individual citizens and so threaten Britain's hard-won
Jack & Jacqui
Jack: Good one Jacqui, can't wait to
read the consultation results.
Jacqui: No need to wait, we just
listen in to what people are saying
Internet black boxes will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government's plans for a giant big brother database, The Independent has learnt.
Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the black box technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database
controlled by the Government.
Plans to create a database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK have provoked a huge public outcry. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, described it as step too far and the
Government's own terrorism watchdog said that as a raw idea it was awful.
Nevertheless, ministers have said they are committed to consulting on the new Communications Data Bill early in the new year. News that the Government is already preparing the ground by trying to allay the concerns of the internet industry is
bound to raise suspicions about ministers' true intentions. Further details of the database emerged on Monday at a meeting of internet service providers (ISPs) in London where representatives from BT, AOL Europe, O2 and BSkyB were given a
PowerPoint presentation of the issues and the technology surrounding the Government's Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), the name given by the Home Office its database monstrosity proposal.
Whitehall experts working on the IMP unit told the meeting the security and intelligence agencies said the technology would allow them to create greater capacity to monitor all communication traffic on the internet. The black
boxes are an attractive option for the internet industry because they would be secure and not require any direct input from the ISPs.
During the meeting Whitehall officials also tried to reassure the industry by suggesting that many smaller ISPs would be unaffected by the black boxes as these would be installed upstream on the network and hinted that all costs would be
met by the Government.
A source close to the meeting said: They said they only wanted to return to a position they were in before the emergence of internet communication, when they were able to monitor all correspondence with a police suspect. The difference here is
they will be in a much better position to spy on many more people on the basis of their internet behaviour. Also there's a grey area between what is content and what is traffic. Is what is said in a chat room content or just traffic?
A spokesman for the Home Office said that Monday's meeting provided a chance to engage with small communication service providers ahead of the formal public consultation next year.
Jacqui Smith will soon begin one of the Home Office's famed consultation exercises on new systems demanded by spy chiefs to snoop on internet communications in the UK. this is known as the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) .
But in the meantime, the imminently-in-force EU Data Retention Directive (EUDRD) is due to come into force on 15 March, as part of a European Commission directive which could affect every ISP in the country.
The EUDRD differs from Jacqui Smiths database monstrosity in that EUDRD mandates communications data retention by ISPs in house whereas the IMP could propose retention by the UK government in a centralised database.
Both were originally to be implemented by the Communications Data Bill as related but separate legal acknowledgements of law enforcement.
That marriage of convenience was cancelled, however, when it became clear its passage through parliament would cause the UK to fail to meet its legal obligation to transpose the EUDRD by March 15. Instead the directive is being made UK law by
statutory instrument (secondary legislation without a parliamentary hearing).
In the meantime, Whitehall infighting over the much more ambitious IMP intensified, prompting Jacqui Smith to drop the Communications Data Bill from the Queen's Speech in favour of a public consultation, putatively scheduled to begin around the
end of this month.
Plans for a Big Brother database holding records of every citizen's emails, internet visits and mobile phonecalls must include proper safeguards to protect the public from abuses of privacy, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service has warned.
Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, speaking publicly for the first time since taking up his post in November, said the Government, police and security agencies should only be allowed to collect and use that data where there was
a clear legitimate purpose that justified the invasion of an individual's privacy.
Starmer said: By its very nature criminal investigation touches on privacy. I think the right balance for any investigation or prosecution has got to have a legitimate purpose. Investigation of crime is a legitimate purpose. But Starmer
stressed, there must also be effective safeguards to act as a break on the state's invasion of the public's privacy.
His predecessor, Sir Ken Macdonald, described the database as an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information.
Big Brother: How much will they know?
The wholesale collection and storage of all our email, internet and mobile phone records would allow the Government to know more than it has ever known about how we live our daily lives. By accessing mobile phone records and using GPS tracker
technology it would be possible to discover where a phone-user is on any given day. Police or the security services would also be able to establish the length of each call as well as the number that was dialled.
Messages to and from social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace could also be subject to covert surveillance, meaning the Government would know both where we are and who our friends or associates might be. This information would be added
to the records of all email traffic, allowing investigators to form a clearer picture of our social lives. This would include all emails, although not the content, from unsolicited sources.
The picture would be completed by a trawl of our internet history which might lead the police to draw conclusions about our interests and shopping habits. At no time would we know we were being snooped on.
Details of every email sent and website visited by people in Britain are to be stored for use by the state from today as part of what campaigners say is a massive assault on privacy.
A European Union directive, which Britain was instrumental in devising, comes into force which will require all internet service providers to retain information on email traffic, visits to web sites and telephone calls made over the internet, for
Hundreds of public bodies and quangos, including local councils, will also be able to access the data to investigate flytipping and other less serious crimes.
It was previously thought that only the large companies would be required to take part, covering 95% of Britain's internet usage, but a Home Office spokesman has confirmed it will be applied across the board to even the smallest company.
Phil Noble of privacy group NO2ID, said: This is the kind of technology that the Stasi would have dreamed of. We are facing a co-ordinated strategy to track everyone's communications, creating a dossier on every person's relationships
and transactions. It is clearly preparatory work for the as-yet un-revealed plans for intercept modernisation.
Another EU directive which requires companies to hold details of telephone records for a year has already come into force, and although internet data is held on an ad hoc basis this is the first time the industry has faced a statutory requirement
to archive the material.
Every phone call, email or website visit will be monitored by the state in a searchable database under plans to be unveiled this week.
The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database.
The move has alarmed civil liberty campaigners, and the country's data protection watchdog last night warned the proposals would be unacceptable .
A consultation document on the plans, known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme, is likely to put great emphasis on propaganda about the threat facing Britain and warn the alternative to the powers would be a massive
expansion of surveillance.
But that will fuel concerns among critics that the Government is using a climate of fear to expand the surveillance state.
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, the country's data watchdog, told the Daily Telegraph: a Government database of the records of everyone's communications – if that is to be proposed – is not likely to be acceptable to the British
public. Remember that records – who? when? where? – can be highly intrusive even if no content is collected.
It is understood Thomas is concerned that even details on who people contact or sites they visit could intrude on their privacy, such as data showing an individual visiting a website selling Viagra.
The proposed powers will allow police and security services to monitor communication "traffic", which is who calls, texts, emails who, when and where but not what is said. Similarly they will be able to see which websites someone
visits, when and from where but not the content of those visits.
However, if the data sets alarm bells ringing, officials can request a ministerial warrant to intercept exactly what is being sent, including the content.
Communications companies are being asked to record all internet contacts between people to modernise police surveillance tactics in the UK.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stepped back from a single database - but wants companies to hold and organise the information for the security services.
Announcing a consultation on a new strategy for communications data and its use in law enforcement, Smith said there would be no single government-run database. But she also said that doing nothing in the face of a communications
revolution was not an option.
The Home Office will instead ask communications companies - from internet service providers to mobile phone networks - to extend the range of information they currently hold on their subscribers and organise it so that it can be better used by
the police, MI5 and other public bodies investigating crime and terrorism.
Presumably to add a networked SQL facility to enable the authorities to search across databases with such questions as give me a list of all mobile phone users in Heathrow last Thursday who regularly read jihadist websites.
Ministers say they estimate the project will cost £2bn to set up, which includes some compensation to the communications industry for the work it may be asked to do.
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 seek to do us harm.
It is essential that the police and other crime fighting agencies have the tools they need to do their job, However to be clear, there are absolutely no plans for a single central store.
What we are talking about is who is at one end [of a communication] and who is at the other - and how they are communicating,
Communication service providers (CSPs) will be asked to record internet contacts between people, but not the content, similar to the existing arrangements to log telephone contacts.
But, recognising that the internet has changed the way people talk, the CSPs will also be asked to record some third party data or information partly based overseas, such as visits to an online chatroom and social network sites like Facebook or
Security services could then seek to examine this data along with information which links it to specific devices, such as a mobile phone, home computer or other device, as part of investigations into criminal suspects.
The plan expands a voluntary arrangement under which CSPs allow security services to access some data which they already hold.
The home secretary has vowed to scrap a ‘big brother’ database, but a bid to spy on us all continues.
Spy chiefs are pressing ahead with secret plans to monitor all internet use and telephone calls in Britain despite an announcement by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, of a ministerial climbdown over public surveillance.
GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre, is developing classified technology to intercept and monitor all e-mails, website visits and social networking sessions in Britain. The agency will also be able to track telephone calls made over the
internet, as well as all phone calls to land lines and mobiles.
The £1 billion snooping project — called Mastering the Internet (MTI) — will rely on thousands of “black box” probes being covertly inserted across online infrastructure.
The top-secret programme began to be implemented last year, but its existence has been inadvertently disclosed through a GCHQ job advertisement carried in the computer trade press.
Grabbing favourable headlines about the climbdown on a central database, Smith announced that up to £2 billion of public money would instead be spent helping private internet and telephone companies to retain information for up to 12 months
in separate databases.
However, she failed to mention that substantial additional sums — amounting to more than £1 billion over three years — had already been allocated to GCHQ for its MTI programme.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said Smith’s announcement appeared to be a smokescreen. We opposed the big brother database because it gave the state direct access to everybody’s communications. But this network of black boxes achieves
the same thing via the back door.
Presumably in response to the Sunday Times revelations above, GCHQ have issue a rare press release:
Just as our predecessors at Bletchley Park mastered the use of the first computers, today, partnering with industry, we need to master the use of internet technologies and skills that will enable us to keep one step ahead of
the threats. This is what mastering the internet is about. GCHQ is not developing technology to enable the monitoring of all internet use and phone calls in Britain, or to target everyone in the UK. Similarly, GCHQ has no ambitions, expectations
or plans for a database or databases to store centrally all communications data in Britain.
Because we rely upon maintaining an advantage over those that would damage UK interests, it is usually the case that we will not disclose information about our operations and methods. People sometimes assume that secrecy comes at the price of
accountability but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, GCHQ is subject to rigorous parliamentary and judicial oversight (the Intelligence and Security Committee of parliamentarians, and two senior members of the judiciary: the
Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner) and works entirely within a legal framework that complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The new technology that GCHQ is developing is designed to work under the existing legal framework. It is an evolution of current capability within current accountability and oversight arrangements The Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 underpin activities at GCHQ - both existing systems and those we are planning and building at the moment. The purposes for which interception may be permitted are set out explicitly in the legislation:
national security, safeguarding our economic well being and the prevention and detection of serious crime. Interception for other purposes is not lawful and we do not do it. GCHQ does not target anyone indiscriminately - all our activities are
proportionate to the threats against which we seek to guard and are subject to tests on those grounds by the Commissioners. The legislation also sets out the procedures for Ministers to authorise interception; GCHQ follows these meticulously.
GCHQ only acts when it is necessary and proportionate to do so; GCHQ does not spy at will.
Jacqui Smith's plan to have ISPs create an enormous federated database of all online communications is receiving a frosty reception from the industry, multiple sources have revealed.
Many in the industry are currently working on their written objections to the proposals, which are known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme.
ISPs are worried that the Home Office does not understand the scale of the technical challenge involved in monitoring and storing data on every communication via the internet. They fear the spiralling costs associated with government IT projects
and resent being forced to devote resources to the plans.
Internet firms have condemned the government's Big Brother surveillance plans as an unwarranted intrusion into people's privacy.
The companies, which ministers are relying on to implement the scheme, also say the government has misled the public about how far it plans to go in monitoring internet use.
The criticism, contained in a private submission to the Home Office, threatens to derail the £2 billion project, which ministers claim is essential to combat terrorism and crime.
Despite hostility from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups, government security officials want to be able to monitor every e-mail, phone call and website visit of people in the UK. The government claims it wants simply to maintain its capability to fight serious crime and terrorism.
However, the submission — by the London Internet Exchange, which represents more than 330 firms including BT, Virgin and Carphone Warehouse — said: We view the description of the government's proposals as ‘maintaining' the capability as
disingenuous: the volume of data the government now proposes [we] should collect and retain will be unprecedented, as is the overall level of intrusion into the privacy of citizenry.
This is a purely political description that serves only to win consent by hiding the extent of the proposed extension of powers for the state.
Apart from accusing ministers and officials of hiding the truth from the public, the internet firms dismissed the plans as technically unworkable. In a statement earlier this year, GCHQ denied that it planned to spy on every e-mail and website
visit in the UK. The internet providers, however, made it clear they do not believe that denial.
These new proposals suggest an intention to capture anything and everything, regardless of the communications [method] used. We have grave misgivings about the technical feasibility of such ambition, they said: We are not aware of any
existing equipment [an internet company] could purchase that would enable it to fulfil a legal obligation to acquire and retain such a wide range of data as it transits across their network ... in some common cases it would be impossible in
principle to obtain the information sought.
The internet providers also complained that the new proposals might be illegal under European or human rights laws. They said the plans would involve the collection of data which is unprecedented both in volume and the level of intrusion into
The number of Big Brother snooping missions by police, town halls and other public bodies has soared by 44% in two years.
Last year there were 504,073 new cases. This is the equivalent of one adult in 78 coming under state-sanctioned surveillance.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said last night: It cannot be a justified response to the problems we face in this country that the state is spying on half a million people a year. The Government forgets that George Orwell's 1984
was a warning, not a blueprint. We are still a long way from living under the Stasi - but it beggars belief that is necessary to spy on one in every 78 adults.
The requests to intercept email and telephone records were made under the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. A total of 653 state bodies, including 474 local councils, are allowed to use its surveillance powers.
Huhne said it made a mockery of a supposed crackdown on the use of RIPA by the Home Office. He added: We have sleepwalked into a surveillance state but without adequate safeguards. Having the Home Secretary in charge of authorisation is like
asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
Despite the huge number of requests, the Home Office says there is a need to go further than giving public bodies access to phone and internet records. Under plans unveiled earlier this year, the police and security services would gain access to
the public's every internet click and phone call. This would include, for the first time, monitoring the use of social networking sites such as Facebook. Every internet and phone company would have to allocate an ID to each customer.
The astonishing extent of Britain's surveillance society has been revealed for the first time. Three million snooping operations have been carried out over the past decade under controversial RIPA laws allowing widespread electronic snooping.
The campaign group Justice is demanding the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, under which all the operations were authorised, be scrapped altogether.
The group's report, titled Freedom from Suspicion , says: The UK has, in the space of 40 years, gone from a society in which mass surveillance was largely a theoretical possibility to one in which it has become not only ubiquitous but
RIPA, billed as anti-terror legislation , was passed by Labour in 2000 supposedly to regulate snooping by public bodies. But Justice, which has campaigned on privacy matters for decades, says the result has been a huge increase in
Since the Act was passed, there have been:
More than 20,000 warrants for the interception of phone calls, emails and internet use;
At least 2.7million requests for communication data, including phone bills and location information;
More than 4,000 authorisations for intrusive surveillance, such as planting a bug in a person's house;
At least 186,133 authorisations for directed (covert) surveillance by law enforcement agencies;
61,317 directed surveillance operations by other public bodies, including councils;
43,391 authorisations for covert human intelligence sources .
In total, the report says there have been around three million decisions taken by state bodies under RIPA, not including blanket authorisations given to the security and intelligence services. The report comments:
RIPA has not only failed to check a great deal of plainly excessive surveillance by public bodies over the last decade but, in many cases, inadvertently encouraged it.
Its poor drafting has allowed councils to snoop, phone hacking to flourish, privileged conversations to be illegally recorded and CCTV to spread. It is also badly out of date.
The Coalition's Protection of Freedoms Bill will reform RIPA by forcing councils to get authorisation from a magistrate before they can go on spying missions. But Justice says the new safeguards are insufficient and RIPA should be scrapped. It
calls for an entirely new regime to be put in place. Justice's Angela Patrick said: The time has come for Parliament to undertake root-and-branch reform of Britain's surveillance powers and provide genuinely effective safeguards against
Details of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites visited online are to be stored in a series of vast databases under new Government plans. Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to
store the data for a year and make it available to the security services under the scheme.
The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by. For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been
communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook. Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.
Rather than the Government holding the information centrally, companies including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the records themselves. Under the scheme the security services would be granted real time access to
phone and internet records of people they want to put under surveillance, as well as the ability to reconstruct their movements through the information stored in the databases. The system would track who, when and where of each message,
allowing extremely close surveillance. Mobile phone records of calls and texts show within yards where a call was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing histories can be matched to a computer's IP address , which
can be used to locate where it was sent.
Labour shelved the project - known as the Intercept Modernisation Programme - in November 2009 after a consultation showed it had little public support.
At the same time the Conservatives criticised Labour's reckless record on privacy. A called Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State by Dominic Grieve, then shadow home secretary and now Attorney General, published in 2009, said a Tory
government would collect fewer personal details which would be held by specific authorities on a need-to-know basis only .
But the security services have now won a battle to have the scheme revived. They are known to have lobbied Theresa May, the Home Secretary, strongly for the scheme.
Sources said ministers are planning to allocate legislative time to the new spy programme, called the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) , in the Queen's Speech in May.