Details of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites visited online are to be stored in a series of vast databases under new Government plans. Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to store the data for a year and make it available to the security services under the scheme.The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by. For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook. Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.
Rather than the Government holding the information centrally, companies including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the records themselves. Under the scheme the security services would be granted real time access to phone and internet records of people they want to put under surveillance, as well as the ability to reconstruct their movements through the information stored in the databases. The system would track who, when and where of each message, allowing extremely close surveillance. Mobile phone records of calls and texts show within yards where a call was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing histories can be matched to a computer’s IP address, which can be used to locate where it was sent.
Labour shelved the project – known as the Intercept Modernisation Programme – in November 2009 after a consultation showed it had little public support.
At the same time the Conservatives criticised Labour’s reckless record on privacy. A called Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State by Dominic Grieve, then shadow home secretary and now Attorney General, published in 2009, said a Tory government would collect fewer personal details which would be held by specific authorities on a need-to-know basis only.
But the security services have now won a battle to have the scheme revived. They are known to have lobbied Theresa May, the Home Secretary, strongly for the scheme.
Sources said ministers are planning to allocate legislative time to the new spy programme, called the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), in the Queen’s Speech in May.