UK government to spy on phone, email, browsing, of entire population

Monday, October 6, 2008

Under the new law, all digital communications in the UK would be monitored.

The government of the United Kingdom leaked its plans yesterday to launch a programme which will monitor every British citizen's emails, internet browsing records, and telephone conversations. While a specific plan has not been reached, UK ministers agreed on spending up to £12 billion (USD$21.2 billion) on the new spying system. More than £1 billion (USD$1.76 billion) has already been spent.

They believe the programme, which will create a massive database for storing the information and installs thousands of probes, is necessary to fight threats to national security. One of the reasons cited for creating the database is to keep links between terrorists intact before they are wiped from systems, which often hold any needed information only temporarily.

Under the UK's current law a warrant is required to intercept communications, but that will change with the implementation of the new database.

Critics like Michael Parker, an anti-ID card activist, have called the proposal 'sinister', and accused the UK government of 'stalking' British citizens. "If an individual carried out this sort of snooping," Parker said, "it would be a crime".

But other critics like Dominic Grieve, Shadow Home Secretary, have a different concern. The government has a record of leaking sensitive information, making such a database insecure—which could be dangerous in the wrong hands. "Seeing how significant an increase in power this would be, we need to have a national debate and the Government would have to justify its need," he finished.

A public debate is being considered after the request of the UK's Information Commissioner, who has warned that the programme would be unacceptable to most of the UK's citizens.

Details will be given in the Queen's speech next month.