Abandon data retention plans, urge privacy groups

The British government's oft-criticised data retention plans will open up your phone and email records to law enforcement agents from the UK to beyond the Urals, say critics

Privacy advocates are accusing the UK government of threatening the privacy and security of the British people through its controversial data retention plans.

Human rights group Privacy International (PI) is concerned that several pieces of legislation currently being considered by Parliament will allow law enforcement units from across Europe and beyond to inspect the phone and Internet usage of the entire UK population.

These statutory instruments are amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and have been labelled as a "snoopers' charter" by opponents, who claim the amendments are illegal.

If approved by MPs, these statutory instruments will set up a regime under which the details of every phone call made, and every email sent and received -- by every UK resident -- must be kept for at least a year.

These records, the UK government says, will be available to UK law enforcement agencies. But according to PI, a number of international treaties between the UK and other members of the Council of Europe and the G8 mean that investigation authorities in these other countries would also be able to gain access to them.

PI is concerned that if these statutory instruments are approved then data regarding UK citizens will be available to governments around the world with little oversight or control.

"The government's plan to stockpile this massive amount of sensitive information poses a risk to a great many people. The proposals should be abandoned immediately," warned Simon Davies, Privacy International's director, in a statement.

"The proposals are ill considered, unnecessary and unlawful," Davies added.

Privacy International and the Foundation for Information Policy Research will present their concerns at a meeting in the House of Lords on Wednesday.