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London: 0207 438 2045

Should Communications Firms Monitor Internet Use?

10th November 2009

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The Home Office is pushing ahead with plans for communications firms to monitor all internet use.

So how realistic are these plans?

Approximately 40% of respondents to the Home Office’s consultation opposed the plans. Experts in the communications industry are concerned that the proposals will be technically challenging as they would require communication service providers to to sort and organise all third party traffic coming and going through their systems. This would include retaining information on how people use social networks such as Facebook, and online games.

Both the police and secret security services currently have legal powers to intercept communications in the UK but this covers mainly telephone communication. As more communication now takes place via computers rather than phones the opinion of the Home Office is that the rules need to be updated to cover the whole range of internet communications now being used.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner responsible for overseeing the protection of private information, told the Home Office that while he recognised that the police needed to use communication data to stop crime, this in itself was not a justification to collect all possible data passing through the internet.

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