All UK emails to be stored

By Blaine Williams

Rules which force internet providers to retain information of all emails sent in the UK have been damned as a waste of money and an attack on civil liberties.

Liberty, the human rights group, said the government cannot be trusted to retain this amount of sensitive information and keep it safe.

Its director Shami Chakrabarti told the BBC: “The thing we have to worry about is what happens next because the government is already mooting plans not just to leave this stuff with the providers but to create a central government database where they hold all the information.

“I’m afraid we just don’t trust any government or any organisation to keep that much very sensitive about us all and to keep it safe.”

The move has also been accused of being a waste of public money that could be better spent by policing the internet more effectively.

Sifting through the amount of emails that are sent in the UK, with a high proportion being spam, will cost a lot of manhours and money to run effectively, it is claimed.

Dr Richard Clayton, security researcher at Cambridge University, said: “I’d have liked to see more bobbies on an electronic beat investigating internet crimes.

“There are much better things to do to spend our billions on than snooping on everybody in the country just on the off chance that they’re a criminal.”

The new rules, part of the European Commission directive, will start on March 15th, and will require all internet companies to store every email sent in the UK and make the data available to public bodies.

It is believed the government may have to shell out £25 to £70 million to help ISPs set up the system.

The Home Office believes that this data will become a vital tool in the fight against terrorism and for information gathering.

A spokesperson said: “It will allow investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time.

“Implementing the EC directive will enable UK law enforcement to benefit fully from historical communications data in increasingly complex investigations and will enhance our national security.”

The industry is also concerned about the practical implications that this move will have, especially the effect on the smaller companies. Malcolm Hutty, from Linx, told “The larger companies that already retain this information voluntarily will not see any adverse affects.

“The smaller companies, which will be excluded from this, are worried about what happens when the company grows to a size that the Home Office takes notice of. Will they be expected to implement the rules immediately and how much will this extra expense be, which did not figure in their business plans?”

The Home Office has said the contents of the emails will not be stored as part of the directive.