The central communications database

More detail has emerged on the technical reality of the government’s plan to store data on every email and internet transaction in the UK. The Independent has the story:

Internet “black boxes” will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government’s plans for a giant “big brother” database, The Independent has learnt.

Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the “black box” technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database controlled by the Government.

“It was clear the ‘back box’ is the technology the Government will use to hold all the data. But what isn’t clear is what the Home Secretary, GCHQ and the security services intend to do with all this information in the future,” said a source close to the meeting.

He added: “They said they only wanted to return to a position they were in before the emergence of internet communication, when they were able to monitor all correspondence with a police suspect. The difference here is they will be in a much better position to spy on many more people on the basis of their internet behaviour. Also there’s a grey area between what is content and what is traffic. Is what is said in a chat room content or just traffic?”

Can anyone offer technical input to this ‘phobe? What might be meant by this “black box”?

The article also states that “consultation” on the Communications Data Bill will take place in the new year. As, coincidentally, will the possible launch of a website on which the public can register an interest in having an ID card. What shall we do with our last two months of freedom?

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6 Comments

  • Hywel Morgan 9th Nov '08 - 3:23pm

    I’m not clear what data the government are planning to monitor and store. However the directive referred to above is quite clear that:
    “It shall not apply to the content of electronic communications, including
    information consulted using an electronic communications network.” (ARt 1 para 2)
    “No data revealing the content of the communication may be retained pursuant to this Directive.” (Art 5 para 2, Directive 2006/24/EC)

    The Government may well be going beyond the scope of the Directive (which is in itself a piece of legislation that is stretching EU competencies and has been inadequately challenged). We wouldn’t however be “stuck with that”.

  • Roger Roberts ! 1st Jan '09 - 12:19pm

    This is a very worrying departure. We were assured that it was not going to happen ! My gut response is that such proposals need to be resisted all the way. Civil Liberties will be a thing of the past if these proposals are agreed. Who joins the battle ?

  • Hywel Morgan 1st Jan '09 - 1:54pm

    Who is “We”, and what were the assurances?

    Are you saying the the Governemnt said it would not go beyond the scope of the directive.

  • Roger Roberts ! 1st Jan '09 - 7:17pm

    To get the correct quotation I’ll have to get back to Hywel after parliament sits again. But I was there !!! Happy New Year.

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