UK To Harvest All Social Network, Messaging Data

Dennis Faas's picture

The UK Government is now considering the mass surveillance of all user communications on social-networking sites.

The EU Data Retention Directive, which directs UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to store its customers' names, addresses, IP address, user IDs and all email and Internet telephony communications for a year apparently aren't enough for Home Office Security Minister Vernon Coaker. He suggests that communications like those on social-networking sites as well as instant messaging should also be monitored.

Harvesting And Storing All Internet Communications

Speaking at a meeting of the House of Commons Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee, Coaker said that social-networking sites similar to Facebook, MySpace and Bebo are not covered by the EU Data Retention directive, so the government is looking at what they should do about the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP). (Source:

The EU Data Retention Directive requires all Internet Service Providers to store customer traffic data for a year, starting March 15, 2009. The IMP was proposed by the government last year to use mass monitoring of traffic data as an 'anti-terrorism' tool. (Source:

Intrusive and Potentially Perilous Deep Packet Inspection

The Internet Modernisation Programme intends to use deep packet inspection -- which can be very intrusive -- to monitor the web communications of all UK citizens and store all that data in a centralized government database. More information on the IMP can be found from ZDNet UK website. (Source:

Previously the UK Government had insisted that intercepting communications was vital, hinting that social-networking sites may be monitored. Now that data may be harvested and stored.

Deep packet inspection involves intercepting and examining the contents of all data packets flowing over a network. The UK government's intention to use it raises numerous privacy and security issues and implementing it can be costly.

Opposition to the plan has been fierce. We've highlighted some of the problems with mass surveillance in the past. Without proper safety measures and security precautions in place, endeavors like this oftentimes end up being fishing expeditions that are grossly misused. More on the UK government's plan can be found in the article from Zdnet UK. (Source:

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