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.

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker