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Britain plans mass surveillance of private emails, text messages

LONDON - Britain’s Government on Thursday confirmed plans to log details about every email, phone call or text message in the country to help anti-terror services track suspects.

Police and security agencies will also be able to access records of activity on social network sites, webmail, Internet-based phone calls and online gaming.

Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the change – costing $2.7 billion public funds - was needed to keep up with how criminals were using new technology.

But many others, including lawmakers from May’s own Conservative Party such as David Davis, who described it as “incredibly intrusive”.

Under the proposed law, which has yet to be approved by parliament, telecoms companies would be obliged to gather a wealth of information on their customers and keep it for up to one year. 

Read more on the story at ITV News

Local councils would be barred from access to the data, but police, the security services, customs and tax officials would be able to use the information.

The Home Office said it would not need to read the body text of emails or eavesdrop on phone calls without a warrant.

The chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection told ITV News that he welcomed the government's new plans into tracking suspects through their use of emails and websites. Peter Davies said that data is needed "to protect the public" from serious offenders.

However, Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the proposals were "the very definition of Big Brother" and described the law as “dangerous”.

In an editorial article in Britain’s Murdoch-owned mass-market daily tabloid, The Sun, May defended her proposals as “sensible and limited," adding that worries that the Bill would stomp on free expression were "ridiculous" and dreamed up by "conspiracy theorists." 

The Home Office claimed the cost of the data-gathering would be covered by reductions in tax fraud and seizure of criminal assets.

ITV News is the UK partner of NBC News.

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