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ICO concerned over interception modernisation programme

Commissioner worried over gov plans to keep our data

Information commissioner Christopher Graham has said that he is concerned about government plans to allow enhanced storage of people's internet data.

Graham said his sceptical stance on the £2bn interception modernisation programme, which would allow the police and security services greater abilities to access the internet usage of everyone in Britain, remains the same as that set out in his 2009 consultation response.

Under the plans, internet service providers (ISPs) would hold information all of their customers' internet activities for a year, including webmail, messaging and social networking traffic, which would be made available to authorities and intelligence agents following a valid application.

This would require ISPs to install new technology, which they have said will be difficult and expensive. They already record "traffic data" on email and web usage, including the header information in emails and the domains of websites, which can be accessed by law enforcement organisations. In neither the new nor the existing plans would the content of communications be recorded wholesale.

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's office said: "On the face of it, the proposal seems disproportionate when any perceived benefits that might be gained from retaining this data are set against the risks to privacy involved.

"He looks forward to meeting with officials at the Home Office to establish whether or not his concerns have been addressed."

The coalition agreement promised to scrap the "surveillance state" plan and said it would "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason". However, the government's strategic defence and security review, published on 19 October 2010, disclosed its intentions to resurrect the Labour party's former project.

The defence and security review says that the programme is necessary to to keep up with changing technology and to protect the public.

The Labour government dropped a bill to set up the scheme last November after internet service providers and mobile phone companies expressed concerns about the strain of storing such a high volume of data, costs and privacy safeguards.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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