Friday, January 9, 2009

Email Database

Rules which force Internet providers to retain information of all emails sent in the UK have been damned as a waste of money and an attack on civil liberties

The new rules, part of the European Commission directive, will start on March 15th, and will require all internet companies to store every email sent in the UK and make the data available to public bodies.

It is believed the government may have to shell out £25 to £70 million to help ISPs set up the system.

Now, I have been following this for some time. It is completely outrageous that it was even considered, let alone implemented. On cost grounds alone, let alone issues of liberty, this is an horrendous extension of state power.

Now I was at an industry event recently and was talking to a couple of fine people who work for major ISPs. There was even a frosty round table 'debate' with some poor fellow from the Home Office defending the plans. The consensus was that the costs to be borne by ISPs will be significant, place burdens of judgement on ISPs beyond their remit, and then there is the issue of spam emails which would also have to be stored. But, crucially, this is the bit that gets my beef...

"Implementing the EC directive will enable UK law enforcement to benefit fully from historical communications data in increasingly complex investigations and will enhance our national security."

The industry is also concerned about the practical implications that this move will have, especially the effect on the smaller companies. Malcolm Hutty, from Linx, told "The larger companies that already retain this information voluntarily will not see any adverse affects.

"The smaller companies, which will be excluded from this, are worried about what happens when the company grows to a size that the Home Office takes notice of. Will they be expected to implement the rules immediately and how much will this extra expense be, which did not figure in their business plans?"

Did you get that? Small ISPs will be exempt. Forget them worrying about becoming big enough to incur the costs - any terrorist or 'undesirable' with 1/10th of a brain cell will just use the ISPs not on the list and so render the entire project completely useless. This point was again raised at the industry round table. I mean seriously, are we this stupid?


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