Home Office presses ahead with web interception

Home Office presses ahead with web interception

Summary: A new directorate will work on the government's plan to monitor traffic details of all communications, including instant messaging and social-networking sites

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TOPICS: Security
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The government has signalled that it is going ahead with plans to force ISPs to intercept all web communications, despite serious criticisms of the scheme.

The Home Office has amalgamated two teams into a new directorate to work on the scheme, which is called the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP).

Before the amalgamation, the first team was working on traditional interception, such as phone tapping, while the second was working on the IMP and looking at the interception of new technologies such as instant messaging.

A Home Office spokesperson said on Friday that the two teams had been fused to form a new department, the Communications Capabilities Directorate (CCD).

"The Directorate will continue to consider the challenges posed by new technologies, working closely with communications service providers and others to bring forward proposals that command public confidence and demonstrate an appropriate balance between privacy and security," said the spokesperson.

Under the IMP, the Home Office hopes to compel ISPs to maintain web traffic data records. The records would allow law enforcement to pinpoint who was talking to whom, and when, across communications media such as email, instant messaging and social-networking sites. The monitoring is designed to be an anti-terrorism measure.

ISPs would be expected to keep records in such a way that the web communications of any UK resident could be linked to their mobile-phone records, to build a picture of their movements and associates.

Privacy campaigner Simon Davies, the director of Privacy International, told ZDNet UK that his organisation believed the IMP had been put on the back burner  following fierce criticism of the scheme by politicians, security experts and technologists.

"We were taken by surprise," said Davies. "We genuinely thought this little plan would be hosed down by ministers."

Davies reiterated earlier criticisms of the scheme, saying web technology and protocols were moving too fast for ISPs to be able to record web-communications traffic details.

"The government proposals are technologically unfeasible. This plan [IMP] relies on Web 2.0 remaining static, but it's a moveable feast," said Davies. "If the government thinks it can keep Web 2.0 static for long enough to reach into, they have another think coming."

Davies also criticised the IMP on civil liberties grounds, saying the plan went against UK data-protection principles, which state that data should only be collected on individuals when it is necessary and proportionate.

"Where is the evidence that this measure is justified, necessary or proportionate?" said Davies. "The Interception Modernisation Programme fails to recognise the balancing act of the expectations of the people and the desires of government, and needs to be tempered."

The IMP is an extension of the EU Data Rentention Directive, which requires ISPs to store customer data traffic relating to telephone and email communications.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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5 comments
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  • So there doing another...

    Slide it past in the middle of the night trick again, like they did with the fuel price hikes that happened a couple of years ago, this on top of the fact that they now want to bribe terrorist organizations abroad out of fighting, and yet the troops still go under funded.

    If they didn't let so bloody many of them into the country in the first place they wouldn't need to try such despot measures! the way I see it is the only people in this country that need tapping apart from all the home government funded terrorists are the politicians themselves!

    150,000+ brits emigrate from this country every year, one hundred and fifty thousand! what does that say about our politicians handling of our country.

    My advice to people here is to start using alternative messenger programs that are available out there in the wild, that fully support the use of point A to point B encryption that the end user's themselves control with no middle man servers ie; msn/yahoo/skype etc, utilizing no less that 256bit and higher encryptions where available.

    Giving the above plans of this government to hand cash out to active terrorists, I wouldn't at all be surprised if the UK forces seize the houses of parliament, and quite honestly I would/could not blame them! these f#@*ng morons need removing.
    CA-aba1d
  • Get used to 1990's speed - Use Tor for everything!!!

    Ok here is the choice, you can either be monitored online (every aspect of your online life) or you can use Tor.

    If an application does not work in Tor then just do not use it...

    The connection goes about early 90's speed but you have to decide on privacy or speed....
    morgancoxuk
  • Shades of Orwell - and we pay for it

    The IMP is an extension of the EU Data Rentention Directive, neither of which is wanted by the general public nor, I imagine, by many politicians. It has been foisted upon us by the unelected appointees of the EU without Brown and Co rejecting it outright, and it has been welcomed and expanded by our civil service who advise the government into an instrument worse than anything Hitler had.
    Such a draconian Orwellian measure as this should certainly be either a national referendum or, at the very least, a completely free vote by our MPs (greedy Westminster sort, not the very greedy unwanted Brussels lot).
    And the cost of this measure now, and greater cost as it expands in the future, is to be ultimately borne by us users.
    An opportunity here for David Cameron to show some guts and inform all and sundry, especially Brussels, that he will disband the whole caboodle whether they like it or not and that any EU Directive in this will have to be rescinded. Without saying please Dave!!
    hampshirehog
  • It seems the " Ministry of truth " is on its way !

    Somebody in the Home Office is in desperate need of seeing the light.
    hkommedal
  • Do our best to beat them

    Hard to believe that "them" are some of "us" and it's us that pay their wages.
    I guess it means a spend on a good encryption program and the use of proxies to keep noses out of my business.
    If everyone used encryption and proxy servers then those employees of ours who we let run roughshod over us will be kept extremely busy finding out we are doing nothing.
    Have to consider which party will quash this when the election comes along.
    hampshirehog