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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 September, 2003, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
'Snooper' powers to fight terror
Companies may be forced to comply
Telephone companies and internet service providers will be asked to keep records of all user calls and e-mails for a year.

Communication service providers already keep records for between two weeks and six months.

But this will be standardised by a proposal going before parliament under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act.

The Home Office has warned the government will make it compulsory if communication service providers fail to comply.

Only names, addresses, numbers and times - not the content of calls and e-mails - will be kept, a Home Office spokeswoman said.

Balancing act

Home Office minister Caroline Flint said: "The government believes that retention of communications data under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act is crucial in the fight against terrorism.

"The code of practice being placed before Parliament produces a balance between what is required to combat terrorism and what is reasonable to ask industry to deliver."

The new requirements for phone and internet companies sets out different time limits for retaining different types of data.

In a separate announcement on Friday the government announced plans for stricter regulation on surveillance powers of its agencies.

This included giving details of which of its agencies can access e-mail and phone data.

The Home Office said told BBC News Online this announcement was designed to provide a "statutory framework" for and impose "further restrictions" on existing powers.

Fire authorities and ambulance services will be given automatic access to phone and internet data along with six other state agencies.

The other organisations are the UK Atomic Energy Constabulary, the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Financial Services Authority, Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Radiocommunications Agency.

They can access mobile phone operators' data that pinpoints a user's location within a few hundred yards.

Privacy concerns

Civil rights campaign organisation Liberty has already denounced Friday's announcement on surveillance.

It took particular exception to proposals to allow public bodies such as The Charity Commission, the Gaming Board and the Postal Services Commission, the right to use undercover agents for investigations.

Initial plans to revise existing legislation on surveillance were dubbed the "snooper's charter" when announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett last summer.

Liberty Director Shami Chakrabati said: "The government has failed to learn from its mistakes.

"After the original "snoopers' charter" was published last year, the government was forced to retreat after enormous public outcry.

"We hope the same happens again".

Q&A: A snooper's charter?
11 Jun 02  |  Politics
'Snoop' plans raise privacy fears
12 Jun 02  |  Politics

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