Government proposes email and internet tracking

A new proposal from the Home Office would see every phone call, email and browsing session logged for use in the prevention of crime

Matthew Sparkes
13 Aug 2008

The Government will store "a billion incidents of data exchange a day" as details of every text, email and browsing session in the UK are recorded under new proposals published yesterday.

The information will be made available to police forces in order to crack down on serious crime, but will also be accessible by local councils, health authorities and even Ofsted and the Post Office.

One example of crime prevention using the data given in the consultation document is that of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency, which targets sexual abuse of children.

"The vast majority of CEOP's work is by resolution of IP addresses, e-mail addresses and increasingly mobile phone numbers. During the period March to June 2008 CEOP identified 96 suspects (who have been arrested) and safeguarded 30 children through the use of internet related data," explains the consultation document, which goes on to explain that petty crime and even instances of self harm will be tackled using the new measures.

Another example was given in which a UK citizen had been talking in an internet chatroom about self-harming, when local police tracked down his address via his IP number and ISP and intervened to save him.

However, the information will also be made available to local councils, health authorities and other Government bodies such as Ofsted.

"The main reason for it is to assist in the investigation of crime," says a Home Office spokesperson. "Each local council can make a decision for themselves on what is the most interest to them."

The move has attracted criticism from the Conservatives, however, including Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary.

"Yet again the Government has proved itself unable to resist the temptation to take a power quite properly designed to combat terrorism to snoop on the lives of ordinary people in everyday circumstances."

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