"comprehensive monitoring of all private communication is vital to protect the public from terrorists"
Most certainly the STASI, the former East German communist secret "service" organisation (Staatssicher
Government ministers are considering plans to spend an estimated £12 billion on a database to monitor and store Briton’s e-mails, texts and calls.
The Government’s Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) programme has already received £1bn in funding to begin the project. To monitor customers, hundreds of probes will be installed on networks.
The MI5 currently has a similar system, but can only proceed with surveillance if it has been approved by the home secretary.
The Home office said: "Ministers are considering what legislation is needed to ensure safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of the public."
IT PRO reported earlier this year on the possibility of the database, with the main concern among citizens being privacy.
Last year over 57 billion text messages were sent, along with three billion e-mails each day.
Michael Parker, of campaign group NO2ID, said the project would be a waste of money and called for a national debate on the matter.
"It just shows again this government's desire to turn itself into a stalker state," he said.
More details are expected to be released in the Queen’s speech next month.
Big Brother: UK to scan all emails, phone calls
6 Oct 2008, 0040 hrs IST,IANS
LONDON: The UK government will spend up to £12 billion to create a database to monitor and store internet browsing, emails and phone calls of every Briton, the Sunday Times reported.
The government has already allocated its communications headquarters (GCHQ) one billion pounds to finance the first stage of the project, being launched, it said, to fight terrorism and rising crime.
The Home Office said no formal decision had been taken but sources confirmed there was a general agreement on the programme. Hundreds of clandestine probes will be installed to monitor internet browsing, emails and telephone calls live on two of the country’s biggest internet and mobile phone providers — British Telephone (BT) and Vodafone. BT has nearly five million internet customers.
But the enormity of the spying has made critics ask if a system as vast could really be kept secure. Last year some 57 billion text messages were sent in the country. At that rate, officials will have to monitor 1,800 texts every second.
Shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve said: "Any suggestion of the government using existing powers to intercept communications data without public discussion is going to sound extremely sinister."
Till date MI5 conducts limited e-mail and website intercepts approved under specific warrants by the home secretary. Further details of the new plan will be unveiled next month in the queen’s speech.
GCHQ bosses want to monitor every email and text message sent in Britain, and keep records of individuals' internet use.
But the plans have been questioned by Cheltenham community leaders, who believe they would be a massive infringement of human rights.
According to reports, the Government's surveillance centre, based at the 'doughnut' building in Benhall, has already been given up to £1 billion to fund the first stage of what would be the country's biggest ever surveillance system.
Known as the Interception Modernisation Programme, the scheme would enable GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 personnel, and also police, to access complete information on every text, email and visit to a website made in this country.
It is understood the first stage would see hundreds of secret probes monitoring customers live on internet and mobile phone providers.
GCHQ officials, backed by MI6, have reportedly been attempting to persuade Whitehall to fund the project to its completion, at a potential cost of up to £12 billion.
More details are thought to be included in next month's Queen's speech although, the Home Office has stressed no formal decision had been taken.
Conservative councillor Jacky Fletcher, Cheltenham borough member for Benhall and The Reddings, said: "This would be a massive infringement of human rights.
"I am all in favour of policing and I believe there do need to be special measures in place to track terror suspects.
"But those measures already exist. You can get court orders to track messages and other things for limited periods of time.
"I genuinely believe that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, but I would like to know why they need to read and store all of these things.
"If this is being considered, I would hope that would be the same question everyone in the world needs answering."
It is understood MI5 can currently conduct limited email and website intercepts but only under specific warrants from the Home Office.
Those in favour believe the measures are vital to track the so-called "friendship trees" in which separate terror cells make links and communicate with one another. However, many within the Treasury and Cabinet Office fear its cost and believe it could infringe human rights.
There are 18 million broadband internet connections in the UK, while 57 billion texts and three billion emails are sent each year.
Although they can be stored in temporary databases, MI5 claims finding specific information can be like looking for a needle in a haystack – and GCHQ hopes the Interception Modernisation Programme is the answer.
GCHQ was unavailable to comment.
UK MINISTERS are planning to spend up to £12bn on a system that would track, tag and store the internet history, e-mail records and telephone calls of every person in Britain, it was claimed last night.
The proposal, which officials claim is vital to fight terrorism and organised crime, would entail installing hundreds of hidden devices to tap into communications on the internet and via mobile phone providers. A national database would be createdADVERTISEMENTto store the information.
A first instalment of £1bn has already been allocated to the Government's central intelligence agency GCHQ to finance the first stage of the controversial project, which will involve testing the process on two of the country's largest communications providers, rumoured to be BT and Vodafone.
While officials claim comprehensive monitoring of all private communication is vital to protect the public from terrorists and fight organised crime networks, it is likely that any attempt to implement widespread live monitoring would attract fierce opposition from human rights and liberty groups.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "Any suggestion of the Government using existing powers to intercept communications data without public discussion is going to sound extremely sinister."
There have also been fears voiced concerning security issues about maintaining such a large database.
MI5 currently conducts limited e-mail and website surveillance, but still requires permission from the Home Secretary on a case-by-case basis to carry out the checks. If the new proposals are implemented, the intercepts would be comprehensive and automatic.
The Home Office said no formal decision had been taken and said it "did not recognise" the £12bn price tag being put on the system in some quarters. But sources said officials had made clear that ministers had agreed "in principle" to the programme.
Further details of the new plan will be unveiled next month in the Queen's Speech.
Last year it was estimated that 57 billion text messages were sent in the UK alone, up from a mere one billion in 1999.
Meanwhile, the number of broadband internet connections has grown from just 330,000 in 2001 to 18 million in 2007.
And each day three billion e-mails are sent – 35,000 every second. Security experts, ministers and police know that among all this electronic noise, terrorists posing a serious risk to national security are hiding and sharing information on where to strike next.
The problem for the security services is that the data is almost impossible to track unless they have clear information about where to look.