updated 04:00 pm EDT, Tue May 20, 2008
UK looks to Comm Data Bill
A controversial bill may be passed in front of the UK legislature later on this year that would keep all text, e-mail, VoIP and phone messages as well as Internet history from cellular networks on file with the government for one year, alleges a report published on Tuesday. Unlike the current requirement outlined by the European Union, the bill would have cellular network providers surrender all information to the government, instead of keeping just phone and text logs themselves.
Proponents of the Communications Data Bill maintain such measures are necessary in order to lead a successful fight against terrorism. The EU launched a directive after the July 7, 2005 metro attacks in London, spawning the new proposal. Once in the State's possession, police and security services could access the records once granted permission from the courts. One database would make it faster and more effective for government agencies to identify and thwart terrorist plots, they argue.
Concerns about such a system include the violation of users' privacy by giving the government near-complete access to a citizen's electronic conversations. Furthermore, the government's ability to manage a system holding tens of billions of text messages and significantly more emails on a single database would increase the risk of the data being tampered with, stolen or lost.
While government officials have discussed the bill with telecommunications companies and ISPs, it has not progressed further. If it does, it will be presented in November's Queen's Speech.
"Given [ministers'] appalling record at maintaining the integrity of databases holding people's sensitive data, this could well be more of a threat to our security, than a support," said David Davis, the UK's Shadow Home Secretary.