UK Big Brother Data Retention Law Effective Today

Dennis Faas's picture

Despite the fact that the UK parliament network was vulnerable to the Conficker virus just last week, reports suggest that the UK Government is forging ahead with their dubious plans to harvest all the personal electronic data of every citizen and storing it for one year, opening the door to the Big Brother super database.

Mobile phone calls, emails and Internet activities of every Briton will be stored for a year, placing legal duties on Internet companies to store everyone's private information, including email traffic and Internet browsing histories effective Monday, April 6, 2009. The actual content of emails or phone calls won't be retained; however, details like IP addresses, dates, time and user telephone numbers will be.

The terms of the EU directive required the Home Office to write to leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and phone companies and offer compensation for costs incurred in retaining the data for a year. ISPs confirmed that the Home Office had written them to set out their obligations under the new law.

Home Secretary Gets Taste of Her Own Medicine

In a twist of what one could call poetic justice, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was embarrassed when some very personal and private information about her family ended up in the public domain through a 'security vetted' outside contractor, who had been employed "in good faith." (Source:

Smith's private information included personal expenses that milked taxpayers in what the Times Online calls unseemly and avaricious fashion.  According to reports, her husband even used taxpayer money to rent adult movies.

She wasn't alone. Other MPs found their expenses copied and leaked, offered for sale to the media for a hefty price. The information was supposed to be published officially in the summer -- once every member went through and deleted details they wanted to keep private -- but both the original and edited versions were on sale.

As noted by the Times Online, people have been assured that they didn't need to worry about leaks and that the security of everyone's information wouldn't be compromised. The government has repeatedly proven that this is a major fallacy because it can't even keep its own information safe. 60 million constituents of theirs are about to have the same problem. (Source:

Multiple Problems with Britain's Database

A comprehensive map of Britain's database state report from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. reveals some very disturbing information on the many central databases built by the government. The databases hold information on every aspect of its citizens lives -- from health and education to welfare, law enforcement and tax -- and are alleged to make public services better or cheaper. However, in reality, the exact opposite is achieved and it is shown that the databases are prone to repeat controversies of effectiveness, privacy, legality and cost. (Source (PDF):

The assessment of 46 databases across the major government departments found that one quarter of the public-sector databases reviewed are almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law. Furthermore, more than half of the databases had significant problems with privacy.

Fewer than 15% of the public databases assessed are effective, proportionate and necessary privacy intrusions. Britain is out of line with other developed countries where records on sensitive matters are held locally and that the benefits claimed for data sharing are often illusory. Sharing those records can harm the vulnerable and make millions of innocent people victims. A lot more information can be found in the Database State Report. (Source (PDF):

The Hazards of Data-mining Outweigh The Benefits

It is nearly impossible to guarantee the security of massive and comprehensive databases the UK government is assembling. Involving more people in maintaining those records only results in increasing the risk and leaving more people vulnerable.

In the UK, as in the U.S., taxpayers are paying the bill for their government to egregiously, and oftentimes illegally, spy on them. If MPs are allowed to go through and delete information they don't want made public, why isn't the public allowed the same option?

More information on privacy issues and concerns raised by the new 'rules' instituted by the EU can be found in the article from The Independent UK.

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