Call for safeguards over Big Brother database

People need protection from abuses of privacy, head of CPS warns

Plans for a Big Brother database holding records of every citizen's emails, internet visits and mobile phonecalls must include proper safeguards to protect the public from abuses of privacy, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service has warned.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, speaking publicly for the first time since taking up his post in November, said the Government, police and security agencies should only be allowed to collect and use that data where there was a clear "legitimate purpose" that justified the invasion of an individual's privacy.

Mr Starmer's comments yesterday will be leapt on by critics of the giant database plan who want the Government to water down the plans so that requests for access to information held on the new database will be made on a case-by-case basis. And many civil liberty groups believe the capacity for holding so much private information in one place is open to abuse and would lead to miscarriages of justice as well as breaches of privacy.

Mr Starmer said: "By its very nature criminal investigation touches on privacy. I think the right balance for any investigation or prosecution has got to have a legitimate purpose. Investigation of crime is a legitimate purpose." But Mr Starmer stressed, there must also be "effective safeguards" to act as a break on the state's invasion of the public's privacy.

His predecessor, Sir Ken Macdonald, described the database as an "unimaginable hell-house of personal private information" while the Government's independent reviewer of terrorism, Lord Carlile QC, attacked the raw plans as "awful". An expert in internet security said yesterday that the database, which could cost up to £12bn, would be a waste of money. Dr Richard Clayton, a security researcher at Cambridge University, told the BBC: "There's going to be a record of every single email ... That of course includes all the spam. There are much better things to do to spend our billions on than snooping on everybody in the country just on the off chance that they're a criminal."

Changes to EU law mean that phone companies and internet service providers must store communications data for 12 months, but the Government wants to divert that information to a government-controlled database. Under existing law, police and security agencies can request the information from companies.

Mr Starmer said the plans were at an "early stage" and that it was not clear what the "final model is going to be". But he cautioned: "It's the overall purpose of this exercise that's important."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Communications data is crucial for the police to be able to investigate and identify criminal suspects ... in increasingly complex criminal and terrorist investigations and will enhance our national security."

Big Brother: How much will they know?

The wholesale collection and storage of all our email, internet and mobile phone records would allow the Government to know more than it has ever known about how we live our daily lives.

By accessing mobile phone records and using GPS tracker technology it would be possible to discover where a phone-user is on any given day. Police or the security services would also be able to establish the length of each call as well as the number that was dialled. Messages to and from social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace could also be subject to covert surveillance, meaning the Government would know both where we are and who our friends or associates might be.

This information would be added to the records of all email traffic, allowing investigators to form a clearer picture of our social lives. This would include all emails, although not the content, from unsolicited sources. The picture would be completed by a trawl of our internet history which might lead the police to draw conclusions about our interests and shopping habits. At no time would we know we were being snooped on.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea