Thousands join email privacy campaign

When Jacqui Smith unveiled Home Office proposals to track the emails, telephone calls and text messages of every member of the public, she might have got more than she bargained for.

Thousands of civil liberties campaigners are planning to flood the Home Secretary's inbox by copying her in on every email they send on June 15.

Martin Allan Gray, an account manager from Dulwich, south-east London, is spearheading the campaign. He said his intention is to send the message: "You want to see our emails? OK then, here they are then!"

Ms Smith announced proposals for a communications "superdatabase", containing details of everyone's telephone calls, emails and internet use, in December.

The Interception Modernisation Programme, which critics claim could cost up to £12 billion, would be managed by a private company.

A message from Mr Allan Gray, 29, on the campaign's Facebook page says: "This is an immense infringement of civil liberties, not to mention a major risk to our private data - but it won't make us any safer."

The message calls on group members to copy every email they send and forward every one they receive to the Home Office on June 15.

As well as the 6,790 campaign members poised to inundate the Home Office at the click of a button, Mr Allan Gray's initiative has won the backing of Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, Welsh Assembly member Peter Black and the Bishop of Buckinghamshire.

Ms Featherstone plugged the campaign in her blog, where she described the home secretary's proposals as "bonkers" and said she was backing the email onslaught because "civil liberties is the Lib Dem middle name".

Bishop Alan Smith also threw the full weight of his blog behind the cyber offensive, calling his readers to sign up and click send on June 15.

"We can then measure how much Crime, War and International Terrorism fell that day, and, armed with that hard knowledge, we can all calculate whether this obvious erosion of our basic human rights is worth the candle," he wrote.

The proposed database would not be intended to feature the content of communications, but only the details of internet sites visited and what emails and telephone calls have been made, to whom and at what times.

The facility is intended to assist police and security services with their investigations by giving them access to communications data which may not be available from telephone or internet providers.

Ms Smith faced a volley of criticism when she announced the plans last month.

Former director of public prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald was the most vocal opponent, warning the database would become a "hellhouse" of personal private information.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The communications revolution has been rapid in this country and the way in which we collect communications data needs to change so that law enforcement agencies can maintain their ability to tackle serious crime and terrorism.

"To ensure that we keep up with technological advances we intend to consult widely on proposals in the New Year.

"We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing the content of emails, texts or conversations."