ISPs would record details
The government reportedly has legislative plans to store details of communication among UK residents - including all website visits, phone calls, emails and text messages - as part of new anti-terrorism legislation.
Enormous government databases would house the information, which would be gathered from internet service providers and landline companies and held for at least a year, so that security services could analyse it when required.
National newspaper the Daily Telegraph has reported that the main aim of the scheme, entitled the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), is to establish who communicates with whom via technology, including popular online tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Even messages between online console gamers would be recorded.
The databases would not store the contents of any of the interactions, but administrative details such as numbers, email addresses, times, dates and registered owners.
Prime target for hackers
Nevertheless, the plan is facing opposition from civil liberties associations.
"This would be a systematic effort to spy on all of our digital communications," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. "No state in history has been able to gather the level of information proposed - it's a way of collecting everything about who we talk to just in case something turns up."
Privacy lobbyists have also raised the issue that such databases will be prime targets for data hackers. Similar historic schemes, such as Labour's Intercept Modernisation Programme in 2009, have been shelved after low public support.
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "A concept such as this has very far-reaching implications. Many of us put information out there about our businesses and personal lives and know that it is recorded by corporations and often remains visible in Google results - but it is altogether more dramatic to think of every interaction we undertake via technology being stored by the government."