Ministers want to farm out a Big Brother database of everyone’s emails, phone calls and internet use to private companies who will be given the job of storing the data on behalf of the state.
The £2bn cost of the plans could add millions of pounds to phone and internet bills to help pay for new systems to collect and sort private information.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said the Government had rejected the idea of a centralised database because it would impinge on privacy. She favoured a “middle way” in which primary communication companies, such as BT or Virgin, and leading internet service providers would have the job of collating phone, email and web use.
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The Home Office wants communications companies to extend the range of information they currently hold on subscribers and organise it so that it can be better used by the police, MI5 and other public bodies investigating serious crime and terrorism.
Ministers estimate that the project will cost £2bn to set up, which includes some compensation to the communications industry for the work it may be asked to do.
“Communications data is an essential tool for law enforcement agencies to track murderers, paedophiles, save lives and tackle crime,” Ms Smith said.