Your private messages revealed to government in new plans

Broadband providers and phone networks are to reveal to authorities your every phone call, text message, email and private social network message.

Broadband providers and phone networks are to reveal to authorities your every phone call, text message, email and private social network message. New anti-terror laws could force phone networks and broadband providers to store our digital communications in databases open to security services to check up on us -- and if that doesn't worry you, just wait until the hackers get their hands on it.

The Communications Capabilities Development Plan sets out the new scheme, as suggested by MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. The government won't store the data itself, instead requiring Internet service providers and phone networks such as BT, Sky, and O2 to store the information for a year.

Anti-terror police and spies could then see the information to see who you've been talking to. Actual phone calls and texts won't be recorded but details of who called or texted who -- and when and where -- will be saved.

Your emails and private messages sent through Facebook and Twitter will be saved, as well as your internet browsing history or exchanges between online video gamers.

Privacy groups including the Open Rights Group have lambasted the new plans.

The Telegraph reports that the government has been holding talks with ISPs for the last two months, ahead of legislation this summer. New laws could be officially unveiled as soon as May.

Big Brother is watching

With bitter irony, the plan was criticised by the Tories and Liberal Democrats when it was first proposed by the then ruling Labour government. It was dropped then, only to be resurrected recently by the Coalition under a new name.

Labour's Intercept Modernisation Programme was ditched in 2009 amid controversy about the sheer number of people who could access the data, including local councils and unelected quangos. The Conservatives published a report at the time called Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State -- changed their tune, haven't they?

I try not to let this sort of stuff jade me but it really does go to show, no matter who you vote for the government always gets in.

There has to be a balance between the modern realities of keeping our friends and family safe, and our right not to be scrutinised by the people supposed to be protecting us. It's perhaps the defining question of the post-9/11 world, and certainly not one I can easily answer.

But whatever your feelings on the balance between national security and privacy, the likelihood of hacking is a massive concern. If each phone network and ISP has a separate database of all its customers -- and all their contacts -- they'll draw hackers, scammers and general wrong'uns like a moth to a flame. At best, they'll be targeted by spammers, and at worst by foreign governments. Even if we believed in government surveillance, we couldn't support these plans without assurance that serious security is in place.

Do you mind if the government and ISPs track your digital chat, if it helps keep the country safe? Or are security services and nervy politicians overstepping their remit and fostering a culture of fear, paranoia and suspicion? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Tags:
Gadgets
About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

MacBook Pro running slow?

Speed up your MacBook by adding more RAM with these quick and easy steps.