British Govt Database to Store All Phone, Web, Email

A government database of all phone and e-mail traffic in Britain is now being considered, according to British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The New York Times reports the Home Office as considering a database that would "store all phone numbers dialed, Web sites visited and e-mail addresses contacted by everyone in Britain." The move is once again defended as a necessary part of a high-tech strategy to fight terrorism and crime, and has been immediately condemned by civil liberties groups.

Technological changes have created an online world that is complex and fragmented, Ms. Smith said, and important information like telephone billing data is not always retained. New strategies are needed to find “some way or other to collect that data and store it,” she said.

Opposition politicians and civil liberties groups immediately condemned the idea, and the country’s independent reviewer of terrorism laws, Lord Carlile, said the government should not be allowed to set up a vast “data warehouse” [and that] any new law must include strict limitations and protections against abuse.

Government officials, backtracking and clarifying, said that the proposed database would not store content -- just phone numbers, web domains, and email addresses -- and that this was merely one of several ideas being considered.

The eventual proposal will be open to public review sometime next year, officials promise.

One is tempted to add, "...kept in the basement, in a locked file cabinet, in a disused lavatory marked 'Beware of Tiger.'" Stay vigilant, Britain.