Magazine article Information Management

UK Wants "Black Boxes" to Record Citizens' Internet Use

Magazine article Information Management

UK Wants "Black Boxes" to Record Citizens' Internet Use

Article excerpt

The United Kingdom is considering a plan to monitor Internet traffic, including every e-mail sent by UK citizens. As part of the plan, raw data on every phone call, Internet hit, and e-mail sent and received in the United Kingdom would be collected and stored in black boxes before being transferred to a giant, government-controlled central database.

The vision was outlined at a meeting between officials from the Home Office and Internet service providers (ISPs) in November and was quickly criticized.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, called it a "step too far."

The "Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP)" is expected to be considered as part of the new Communications Data Bill early next year.


The government said its security and intelligence agencies wanted to use the stored data to help fight serious crime and prevent terrorism attacks.

Officials tried to reassure ISPs by suggesting that many smaller ISPs would be unaffected by the "black boxes," as these would be installed upstream on the network. They also indicated that all costs would be paid by the government. Ministers have said they do not intend to introduce monitoring or storage equipment that will check or hold the content of e-mails or phone calls.

The UK recently published a draft law mandating data retention by ISPs and telecoms. The proposed regulations will replace an earlier law that applied to non-Internet data only. If approved by both Houses of Parliament, the Electronic Communications Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2008 will go into effect March 15. …

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