Storm over UK's Big Brother database
Posted in: Legal, Privacy & Security at 16/10/2008 09:49
Early plans to create a giant "Big Brother" database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK were last night condemned by the Government's own terrorism watchdog.
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist laws, said the "raw idea" of the database was "awful" and called for controls to stop government agencies using it to conduct fishing expeditions into the private lives of the public.
Today the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is expected to signal the Government's intention to press ahead with proposals to collect more details about people's phone, email and web-browsing habits as she warns that the terrorist threat to Britain is growing.
Leading article: The threats to our liberty just keep on coming
The defence of liberty against this government is less like a single battle, and more akin to a prolonged campaign against a determined insurgency. This was shaping up to be a heartening week for those concerned about civil liberties. On Monday night, the Government's bill to extend pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days was thrown out by the House of Lords. Instead of pledging to send the Counter-Terrorism Bill directly back to the upper chamber, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she would park the measures indefinitely.
Yesterday there came another reversal. The same bill would also have allowed ministers to order inquests to be held in private "for reasons of national security". This would have banished juries, relatives and the public from certain hearings. Now this clause too is being dropped.
Jacqui Smith plans broad new 'Big Brother' surveillance powers
Telephone calls, internet use and email will be monitored by the police as part of a broad extension of the ability of the state to snoop on citizens.
The move comes after the police and the security services warned that criminals were becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of technology to avoid detection.
Ministers were already planning a massive "Big Brother" database to log data contained in emails and phone calls but have decided to go even further in view of the current threat level.
The original proposal, which was this week criticised by Lord Carlisle, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, had been due to be put before MPs in the Communications Data Bill next month.