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UK government considers monitoring all web usage to track criminals

New measures to maintain the capability of public authorities to obtain access to communications data were announced by the Home Office yesterday (April 27,2009). The existing capability is declining in the face of rapid technological changes in the communications industry.

Publishing the consultation - 'Protecting the public in a changing communications environment' - the government explicitly rules out setting up a single store of all communications data.Communications data is the "who, when, where and how" information from mobile phone calls, texts, emails and instant messages, but is not the content. The use of communication data is an important capability that is used by the police and other agencies here and around the world to protect the public and fight crime.

The Government says it can be used to prevent terrorism and serious crime, as well as to provide vital evidence at trial. Comms data played an essential part in solving many cases and bringing the criminals to justice.

The consultation outlines ways to collect and retain communications data and seeks views on how to strike the right balance between privacy and security. The system the government is proposing is based on the current model where Communications Service Providers (CSPs) collect and store the data and where we have strict and effective safeguards in place to regulate access by public authorities.

The Government proposes:
  •  Legislating to allow all data that public authorities might need, including third party data (data generated by communications services based overseas but crossing the networks in the UK) to be collected and retained by CSPs; and
  • Having CSPs process the data to enable specific requests by public authorities - such as the police and Security Service - to be processed quickly and comprehensively.
Source: Public
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