Not for long, if the UK government has its way. It has been reported that its new anti-terror plan, if passed, would require Internet providers and phone companies to store all online communications by UK citizens for one year. This would include phone calls, SMS, email, Twitter, Facebook and any other online messages.
While the actual content of the communications wouldn’t be stored, details including the time and date it was sent, who it was sent to and the location it was sent from would need to be archived.
Under the European Union’s Data Retention Directive, member countries are required to store details on when emails, phone calls and texts were sent. But the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) takes this a step further in the UK and if passed, will be the first time Britain has required details of social networking communications to be stored.
The CCDP is similar to a previous plan dumped by the former Labour government because it was deeply unpopular.
The major concern is privacy and security. The plan is for telecommunications companies to individually store the data on their customers, rather than it being transferred to a central database. Can they be trusted to store this data securely? With scores of public organisations potentially authorised to access the data, how can the government guarantee this information won’t fall into the wrong hands?
As of mid-2011, more than 80 per cent of the UK population were Internet users. It would be safe to assume that the vast majority of these 41 million people would have email and/or social media accounts. This leads to another important question – who will be expected to pay to store such a massive amount of data? It is hard to imagine the telecom providers would foot this bill. Will it be user pays?
So how far is too far when it comes to balancing national security versus privacy? I would love to know your thoughts. Please contribute in the comments section below.