January 11, 2009

New email law ‘attack on privacy’

Rules that force internet companies to keep details of every email sent in the UK are being criticised.


New email law 'attack on privacy'

From March, information on the amount of messages delivered will be kept for a year.

The content of individual emails will not be held but the timing and number of each communication are and security experts say it is an attack on privacy and a waste of money.

The law is being implemented as part an EC directive, and the Government will reportedly have to pay the internet service providers (ISP) more than £25 million to ensure the law is obeyed.

Dr Richard Clayton, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge's computer lab, said the costs of the regulation could have been better spent.

"There's going to be a record of every single email which arrived addressed to you and all the emails you sent out via your ISP. That of course includes all the spam," he said.

"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 Earl of Northesk, a Conservative peer on the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said it meant anyone's movements could be traced 24 hours a day.

He said: "This degree of storage is equivalent to having access to every second, every minute, every hour of your life.

"People have to worry about the scale, the virtuality of your life being exposed to round about 500 public authorities.

"Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, privacy is a fundamental right... it is important to protect the principle of privacy because once you've lost it it's very difficult to recover."

The Home Office said the data would be useful for combating crime.

A spokesman said: "Communications data is crucial for the police to be able to investigate and identify criminal suspects by examining their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time.

"The data retained is not the content of emails but only the email addresses and times they were sent.

"Implementing the EC Directive will enable UK law enforcement agencies to benefit fully from historical communications data in increasingly complex criminal and terrorist investigations and will enhance our national security."

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