UK Government Plans To Monitor Social Networking Websites

The UK Government has stepped up its proposals to monitor communication between users of popular social networking websites like Facebook or Myspace.

The Home Office already has plans to log details of all phone calls, emails and websites visited by web users in the UK, as part of a grander scheme, a massive "mother of all databases" under the "Intercept Modernisation Programme" umbrella.

The Home Office minister Vernon Coaker told MPs that the fact that the EU Data Retention Directive lacks some features is "why the Government is looking at what we should do about the intercept modernisation programme because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive"

Unsurprisingly, this has attracted a significant amount of criticism from civil liberty campaigners and members of the opposition who have called the proposal, a "snoopers' charter", as more than 25 million people in the UK use social networking websites with 17 million on Facebook alone.

Shami Chakrabarti from Rights Group Liberty told the Mirror that "Technological development is used as an excuse for centralised snooping of a kind that ought never to be acceptable in the oldest unbroken democracy on earth."

The government said that it will not be interested in what is being discussed but rather who talks to whom online, something that the government says is vital in preventing criminals and terrorists' communicating facilities.

However, it would be difficult to check whether the content of the discussions are actually ignored or whether the system would be equipped with a "record conversations" feature that would be initially disabled.

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Our Comments

This gigantic database - probably the largest in the world - would have to track one trillion emails (with nearly 80 percent of it classified as Spam), 20 million broadband connections and 60 billion SMS per year. It will certainly raise some eyebrows through comparisons with the East German's Stasi equally titanic databases at a time where one in 10 adults in the country were informers.

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