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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 13:11 GMT
Revised 'snoop' plans outlined
Computer user
Every e-mail sent leaves a trace
Revised plans that will regulate access to phone, internet and e-mail records have been published by the Home Office.

The original plans were dubbed a "snooper's charter" because they would have allowed personal communications data to be seen by dozens of public bodies.

The government has since admitted it made a mistake and the new proposals - detailed in a fresh consultation paper - suggests that only five new bodies will be given access.

Currently, the power to see private communications exists only with the police, customs and excise, intelligence services and Inland Revenue.

I take concerns about intrusion into privacy very seriously
David Blunkett

Phone companies and internet services providers record every telephone call, email and website visited.

The information they store includes the source and destination of the call.

Last summer, it was revealed the Home Office wanted to extend the power to see this information to numerous public bodies and councils.

This would have given the Financial Services Authority, the Postal Services Commission, seven Whitehall departments and many parish councils this right.

Criminal offence

That prompted an outcry from civil liberty groups and MPs, who coined the term "snooper's charter" amid concerns it could be abused.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Get out of my account!
Steve G, UK

The five bodies that would be given access to e-mails and phone records under the new proposals include the Serious Fraud Office, fire authorities, NHS ambulance trusts and the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency.

Other organisations such as trading standards departments will have access only to your name and address, not the flow of information or the destination.

Phone user
In a democratic society there is always a difficult balance to strike between respect for privacy and ensuring crime is tackled effectively
Bob Ainsworth. Home Office Minister

There will also be a new criminal offence of unlawful access to the data to ensure no-one is taking advantage of the new rules.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "I take concerns about intrusion into privacy very seriously.

"I value my own privacy, and would be as concerned as anyone else if I thought that my mobile phone or other communications data could be easily available to an army of officials from public authorities."

Junior colleague Bob Ainsworth said the new proposals were an example of the government "listening and delivering".

"We are tailoring the amount of access to the need for it to allay the concerns of members of the public worried about intrusion into their private records," he said.

Balance?

He added: "In a democratic society there is always a difficult balance to strike between respect for privacy and ensuring crime is tackled effectively."

The proposals balanced people's right to privacy with the need to investigate crime, said Mr Ainsworth.

"Our plans will ensure that all crimes can be investigated whether drug dealing, phoney trading or selling food unfit for human consumption, but with access limited to what is strictly necessary."

In January, the government vowed to press ahead with plans to require internet service providers to store customer data for up to six years, in case it is wanted by law enforcement agencies.

AOL estimated this would cost it 34m to upkeep.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The plan is controversial and sensitive"



SEE ALSO:
At-a-glance: Revised 'snoop' plans
11 Mar 03 |  Politics
'Snoop' climbdown by Blunkett
18 Jun 02 |  Politics
UK stands firm on snooping laws
30 Jan 03 |  Technology
Q&A: A snooper's charter?
11 Jun 02 |  Politics
'Snoop' plans raise privacy fears
12 Jun 02 |  Politics
When sending is spying
06 Feb 01 |  Science/Nature


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