Following the 7th July bombings in London, the British government is pushing for communications service providers to retain data for upto 3 years for access by the police and intelligence agencies:
Under the proposals, telecoms operators and Internet service providers would have to keep records of emails, telephone calls and text messages for between 12 months and three years. Law enforcement agencies would be able to see who had sent and received these communications, although the content of these communications would not be stored.
Home secretary Charles Clarke claims that the powers would help to establish links between individuals.
This move is despite the fact that the European Parliament recently rejected these proposals, though because the proposal was put forward under the “third pillar” it has no power to stop the proposals if the member states push ahead with them.
An extraordinary meeting of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council called by Charles Clarke has given backing to these data retention powers. Yet, surely it would be trivial for any terrorists to circumvent such measures to try and spy on them. For example, each of the following methods would make data retention useless for monitoring who they communicate with:
- Buying and regularly changing unregistered pay as you go mobile phones.
- Using anonymous internet accounts and other anonymising services to hide your activities.
- Communicating face to face.
- Posting coded messages from newly created internet accounts to usenet groups, making it impossible to determine who the message was for, let alone who actually read it.
- Communicating via dead drops.
- Communicating via postal services.
So the end result is that all this data will be stored for the law abiding public and those who wish to circumvent it will do so easily.