Govt considering telephone call database

The government is considering a proposal which would see the creation of a new national database recording phone calls and text messages, it has been confirmed.

A Home Office spokesperson told the “very draft proposal” was being considered as a precursor to the data communications bill announced in last week’s draft Queen’s Speech.

The government is worried the internet revolution is eroding its ability to monitor suspected criminals and terrorists.

“Internet technology has delivered a revolution in how individuals communicate,” the spokesperson said.

“That will increasingly undermine our present capabilities to obtain communications data and use it to protect the public.”

The spokesperson said the “fundamental principle” behind any database would be for the purposes of “counter-terrorism and the investigation of crime”.

She sought to downplay the “common misconception” that such a database would enable the government to engage in the recording of phone conversations.

“This data is basically the who, how, when and where of communication. It’s a record of who phoned who, not the contents of the conversation.”

Ministers have not yet been handed the proposal and full details of the data communications bill will be released later this year.

According to the Times newspaper, however, the Home Office has been in touch with telecoms firms and internet service providers to discuss how such proposals might be implemented.

Today’s proposals reflect the Home Office’s ongoing threat against the threat of terrorism in the UK. But it will attract criticism from civil liberties groups who already fear Britain is descending into a Big Brother society.

A new database would also place further pressure on the government to improve its record in terms of competence. A series of data security slips over the winter, together with the all-too-clear challenges seen in the establishment of a patient records database for the NHS, have undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to manage such projects effectively.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne described the proposal as an “Orwellian step too far”.

“Ministers have taken leave of their senses if they think that this proposal is compatible with a free country and a free people,” he said.