State to spy on all e-communications

The electronic communications of everyone in Britain will be stored and scrutinised as part of a £12billion plan to build the nation's biggest ever surveillance system.

If installed as proposed, the Interception Modernisation Programme's database will be directly fed by filters put inside the networks of internet and phone service providers.

No formal decision to proceed with the scheme, thought to include BT and Vodafone, has been made, the Home Office told The Sunday Times, which published the revelations yesterday.

But the paper cited unnamed sources as saying ministers backed the plan "in principle," and reported staff at GCHQ had "aggressively" marketed it in recent Whitehall briefings.

It also said officials at the state's top listening post had already bagged £1bn for the first stage of their programme, which would dwarf all other state IT schemes, in scope, scale and cost.

They argue so-called 'live monitoring' is necessary to fight terrorism and crime because its practitioners increasingly use emails, telephone and internet communications.

Civil liberties groups agree but oppose the scheme, due for a mention in the Queen's speech, saying a central database for everyone's e-communications poses unprecedented dangers.

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