U.K. Wants All Internet, Phone Use Tracked

The good news is the U.K. has decided against a government database tracking all Internet and phone use. The bad news is, they still want it done, but by the private sector.

Cost is the issue with the government doing it itself; why bother when you can simply require the private sector to do so, right? Research from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's department estimated that the proposal would have cost the government £2 billion to implement.

That said, Smith said that doing nothing was not an option. The data stored, according to Smith, would not include the content of such communication, but instead the "who, when, where and how" of the communication. She added:

"Communications data is an essential tool for law enforcement agencies to track murderers, paedophiles, save lives and tackle crime.

"Advances in communications mean that there are ever more sophisticated ways to communicate and we need to ensure that we keep up with the technology being used by those who seek to do us harm.

"It is essential that the police and other crime fighting agencies have the tools they need to do their job, However to be clear, there are absolutely no plans for a single central store."

As opposition legislators tried to remind people, the U.K. government doesn't have all that great a history of "hanging on to" data, as indicated by several instances of data loss. The fact that the U.K. government is essentially outsourcing its data storage doesn't really leave people with a good feeling either, based on comments made by, for example, Conservative home affairs spokesman Chris Grayling, who said:

"The big problem is that the government has built a culture of surveillance which goes far beyond counter-terrorism and serious crime. Too many parts of government have too many powers to snoop on innocent people and that's really got to change."
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said:

"I am pleased that the Government has climbed down from the Big Brother plan for a centralized database of all our emails and phone calls. However, any legislation that requires individual communications providers to keep data on who called whom and when will need strong safeguards on access.

"It is simply not that easy to separate the bare details of a call from its content. What if a leading business person is ringing Alcoholics Anonymous, or a politician's partner is arranging to hire a porn video?

"There has to be a careful balance between investigative powers and the right to privacy."
Readers, what do you think? How long before everything we do everywhere is tracked, or is that already happening, and we just don't know it?