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Paul Boateng, Home Office minister
"It's all about combating crime"
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Observer newspaper's Political Editor, Kamal Ahmed
"It is quite an astonishing extension of powers"
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Sunday, 3 December, 2000, 09:35 GMT
Spy plans 'threat to human rights'
The Home Office is considering the plans
Civil liberties campaigners have warned the government that granting police and secret services greater snooping powers would be a breach of human rights.

It has been reported that British intelligence services and the police are seeking powers to log all telephone calls, e-mails and internet traffic in the UK.

Vast banks of information on every member of the public can quickly slip into the world of Big Brother

Lord Cope
The Home Office has confirmed a report in The Observer newspaper that MI5, MI6 and the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) are jointly requesting new legislation requiring communication service providers (CSPs) to log phone calls and keep details for seven years.

But campaign group Liberty has warned the proposal would breach the Human Rights Act and Data Protection Act and could see Britain hauled before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

'Extraordinary idea'

John Wadham, director of Liberty, said: "The security services and the police have a voracious appetite for collecting up information about our private lives, but this is an extraordinary idea.

"This would violate the principles of the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act and the government should reject this idea now.

Home Office minister Paul Boateng
Paul Boateng: "We must strike a balance"
"If it goes ahead we will challenge this in the courts in this country and the European Court of Human Rights."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are currently considering their representations. However, no decisions have been taken at this stage."

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Andrew Neil Show, Home Office minister Paul Boateng said the government would strive "to get the balance right" between the demands of industry and the demands of law enforcement.

It is said the new powers are needed to tackle the growing problems of cyber crime, paedophiles' use of computers to run child porn rings, terrorism and international drug trafficking.

'Unquestionably lawful'

The document, written by the deputy director general of NCIS, Roger Gaspar, said the new demands were necessary.

He writes: "We believe that the Home Office already accepts that such activity is unquestionably lawful, necessary and proportional, as well as being vital in the interests of justice."

Mr Gaspar estimates that a database to store all the information would cost about 3m to set up and 9m a year to run.

Politicians have condemned the proposal.

The Conservative peer and privacy expert Lord Cope told The Observer he was sympathetic to the need for greater powers to fight modern types of crime but had concerns about the proposal.

"Vast banks of information on every member of the public can quickly slip into the world of Big Brother. I will be asking serious questions about this," he said.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Employers gain e-snoop powers
20 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Software targets porn sneaks
03 May 00 | UK
E-mail: Our right to write?
12 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Criticism of net snooping bill grows
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