Every phone call, email or website visit will be monitored by the state under plans to be unveiled next week in the UK.
By Tom Whitehead
The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database.
The precise content of calls and other communications would not be accessible but even text messages and visits to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter would be tracked.
The move has alarmed civil liberty campaigners, and the country’s data protection watchdog last night warned the proposals would be “unacceptable”.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will argue the powers are needed to target terrorists and serious criminals who are taking advantage of the increasing complex nature of communications to plot atrocities and crimes.
A consultation document on the plans, known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme, is likely to put great emphasis on the threat facing Britain and warn the alternative to the powers would be a massive expansion of surveillance.
But that will fuel concerns among critics that the Government is using a climate of fear to expand the surveillance state.
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, the country’s data watchdog, told the Daily Telegraph: “I have no problem with the targeted surveillance of terrorist suspects.
“But a Government database of the records of everyone’s communications – if that is to be proposed – is not likely to be acceptable to the British public. Remember that records – who? when? where? – can be highly intrusive even if no content is collected.”