The Home office has issued a consultation paper for a new law that would force phone companies, ISPs and network operators to record and store every phone call, web page request and text message.
The information would have to be stored for 12 months by service providers and would be searchable by a wide variety of organisations, including local councils, health authorities, and even Ofsted and the Post Office.
"A key aspect of the debate, both during the public consultation on, and parliamentary debate about, the code of practice for voluntary retention of data, and also during the debate about the Directive within the European Council and the European Parliament, has been the impact, or potential impact, that retention of communications data has on individuals’ human rights," the document states. "The implementation of the Directive does not alter the balance in that debate and we consider that these measures are a proportionate interference with individuals’ right to privacy to ensure protection of the public."
The document gives case histories of instances where this data has been used to solve crimes, such as data used by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, which from March to June 2008 identified 96 suspects - who have been arrested - and safeguarded 30 children through the use of internet-related data.
The shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve, told The Guardian: "Yet again the government have proved themselves 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."
Landline and mobile phone records are already stored for 12 months as a matter of course and the extension of the system into web browsing history and email accounts is merely in line with current EU policy, the government says. Its usefulness in terrorism cases was also quoted.
"We will be told it is for use in combating terrorism and organised crime but if Ripa [Regulation of Investigatory Powers] powers are anything to go by, it will soon be used to spy on ordinary people's kids, pets and bins," said Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne.
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