Email and web snoop plans slammed - again

How can you use all that data, asks Labour tech tzar

How can you use all that data, asks Labour tech tzar

The Labour chairman of an influential technology group has warned that government plans to monitor UK email and internet records could collect to much data to be useful.

Home Office proposals that will see records of phone, email and internet communications - including VoIP - to be kept for 12 months are expected to cost taxpayers up to £68m to set up and £39m per year to run.

Andrew Miller, chairman of the parliamentary information technology committee, cast doubt on the value of requiring ISPs to hold such a vast amount of information, saying the data would be too broad to be useful.

It follows an earlier admission by a Home Office spokesperson that the information would be of little use in tackling organised crime, as serious criminals will be able to disguise their communications.

The proposals have already faced harsh criticism from privacy campaigners and opposition political parties, while Information Commissioner Richard Thomas recently spoke out against plans to retain communications records in a centralised database.

Miller said: "The worry that I have is the sheer practicality of being able to manage that data in a meaningful way.

"Keeping everything from everyone might seem like a good idea but you have to face up to reality of what the hell are we going to do with it."

According to consultation papers released in August, the government wants to keep the "who", "when" and "where" of communication to "assist in the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime".

UK security chief at Microsoft and former top cyber security agent for the FBI in the UK Ed Gibson raised similar concerns about the scale of the proposals.

Security from A to Z

Click on the links below to find out more...

A is for Antivirus
B is for Botnets
C is for CMA
D is for DDoS
E is for Extradition
F is for Federated identity
G is for Google
H is for Hackers
I is for IM
J is for Jaschan (Sven)
K is for Kids
L is for Love Bug
M is for Microsoft
N is for Neologisms
O is for Orange
P is for Passwords
Q is for Questions
R is for Rootkits
S is for Spyware
T is for Two-factor authentication
U is for USB sticks/devices
V is for Virus variants
W is for Wi-fi
X is for OS X
Y is for You
Z is for Zero-day

"I think you have to be very careful of how much data we require anyone to store. There is then the matter of data mining that information you have retained," he told silicon.com.

As of last September, telecoms providers are obliged to keep all text and phone call records for between six months and two years following an EU directive. The Home Office proposals will bring the UK in line with this requirement, extending the monitoring requirement to include all online traffic by 2009 at the latest.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "This data is a vital tool. Communications data allows investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time.

"We have worked with CSPs (communications service providers) to ensure they can store data retained under the EU directive in such a way that it can be accessed to provide a timely response to RIPA (Regulation of Invesitgatory Powers Act) inquiries.