Giant database plan ‘Orwellian’

Just in case the silencing of protest in Liverpool didn’t drive home the point enough, here’s another bit of news:

Proposals for a central database of all mobile phone and internet traffic have been condemned as “Orwellian”.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the police and security services needed new powers to keep up with technology.

And she promised that the content of conversations would not be stored, just times and dates of messages and calls.

But the Lib Dems slammed the idea as “incompatible with a free country”, while the Tories called on the government to justify its plans.

Details of the times, dates, duration and locations of mobile phone calls, numbers called, website visited and addresses e-mailed are already stored by telecoms companies for 12 months under a voluntary agreement.

The data can be accessed by the police and security services on request – but the government plans to take control of the process in order to comply with an EU directive and make it easier for investigators to do their job.

Information will be kept for two years by law and may be held centrally on a searchable database.

Without increasing their capacity to store data, the police and security services would have to consider a “massive expansion of surveillance,” Ms Smith said in a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research earlier.

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