Between this issue and multinational pushes for DNA databases, GPS-tracked road tolls, and the shared no-fly lists evidence continues to pile up to support the view that national policy is already being written at a transnational level – announcements that ISPs will have to hold massive databases of user information have already been made recently in Canada and the US, and the NSA fully intends to datamine this information.
Flashback: US Bill proposes ISPs, Wi-Fi keep logs for police | The Spy Factory: The New Thought Police | New law to give police access to online exchanges | Private firm may administer UK surveillance database | US military targets social nets | UK Security services want personal data from sites like Facebook
April 27, 2009
Home secretary rules out state-run ‘super-database’ but firms would store details of calls, emails, texts and web browsing
The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, today ruled out building a single state “super-database” to track everybody’s use of email, internet, text messages and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Smith said creating a single database run by the state to hold such personal data would amount to an extreme solution representing an unwarranted intrusion of personal privacy. [Ed. Note: Wait for it, wait for it...]
Instead the Home Office is looking at a Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£2bn solution that would involve requiring communications companies such as BT, Virgin Media, O2 and others to retain such personal data for up to 12 months.
The decision to abandon a state central database is a setback for the police and security services who wanted rapid access to the data while conducting counter-terror and crime investigations. Instead they will have to apply for the data to be released to them on a case-by-case basis to each individual telecoms and internet company.
Smith, publishing a consultation paper detailing the private sector solution, 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.”
She said it was essential that the police and other crime-fighting agencies had the tools they needed to do their job. “However, to be clear there are absolutely no plans for a single central store. We recognise that there is a delicate balance between privacy and security, but to do nothing is not an option as we would be failing in our duty to protect the public.”
She argued that more privacy concerns were raised by the proposal to store all the personal communications data in a state-run single database than individual private companies retaining the information for access by the police and security services as and when they needed it.
The home secretary said the cost of the project was around Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£2bn over 10 years, far short of speculation that it could be as high as Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£12bn.
The Home Office consultation paper published today was originally expected in the early new year but has been delayed by an intense cabinet debate over whether or not to go ahead with the state database.
The paper makes clear that the Home Office regards it as technically the best option, describing it as “the least challenging technically to implement and the cheapest to build and run”.
But it adds that the government “recognises the privacy implications in holding all communications data from the UK in a 12-month period in a single store. The government therefore does not propose to pursue this approach.”
Instead communications companies are to be required by legislation to ensure that all traffic data — who sent a text to whom at what time and from where — is collected and kept in Britain. They will also be asked to store additional third-party data crossing their networks including phone calls and internet use from outside Europe.
This goes far beyond the current data collected for billing purposes. The companies will also be asked to organise the data — for example, matching it where it relates to the same person so that the authorities can access it in a form that is immediately usable.
Smith said that while the new system could record a visit to a social network such as Facebook, it would not record personal and private information such as photos or messages posted to a page.
“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,” she said.