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Phone and email records to be stored in UK's new spy plan

world Updated: Feb 19, 2012 21:32 IST

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For the first time, Britain plans to store details of all phone calls, text messages, emails and websites visited online as part of the government's new anti-terror plans, according to a media report.

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, the Daily Telegraph reported.

UK's 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, the report said.

The Home Office is understood to have begun negotiations with internet companies in the last two months over the plan, which could be officially announced as early as May, it said.

It is certain to cause controversy over civil liberties -but also raise concerns over the security of the records.

The plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, the home security service, MI6, which operates abroad, and GCHQ, the Government's "listening post" responsible for monitoring communications.

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, the report said.

The system would track "who, when and where" of each message, allowing extremely close surveillance, it said.

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.

The scheme is a revised version of a plan drawn up by the Labour government which would have created a central database of all the information, the report said.

Labour party 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.

Commenting on the issue, a Home Office spokesman said: "It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public.

"We meet regularly with the communications industry to ensure that capability is maintained without interfering with the public's right to privacy," the spokesman added.