People Noticing That New UK Email Retention Laws Might Violate Privacy Rights

from the you-think? dept

There's been an ongoing push around the world by law enforcement to require ISPs retain certain types of data, in case it comes in handy later for criminal investigations. Of course, these demands come from the wishful thinking department. The cost associated with such data retention is tremendous, and all it does is create a huge mass of data -- often making it more difficult to find the useful information. In the UK, they've put in place new data retention laws that will require ISPs to retain records on every email sent or received in the UK for a year. It's not the contents of the email -- but just the data on that email. That, alone, though, seems like a pretty big violation of privacy, and people are starting to point that out.

The problem is this fanciful wish by law enforcement types, that actually is quite similar to the ideas among some marketing/advertising folks, that if they could just access all this data, life would be so easy. They're wrong, of course, but even if it were true, the reason we believe in privacy and rights of individuals is that it's an important part of a free society. Law enforcement isn't supposed to be easy in a free society. If the goal of society was to make law enforcement's life easy, we'd get rid of all privacy rights entirely. The excuse that this is somehow "necessary" for law enforcement to do their job is a lie. It may mean they have to investigate crimes in different ways, but no blanket removal of privacy is ever "necessary."

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 5:34pm

    What happens if you run your own personal mail server, do you have to retain this data and narc on yourself?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    bikey (profile), Jan 9th, 2009 @ 11:51pm

    personal data

    Finally, people are beginning to realize this. We have gone from citizen to consumer to shareholder to data subject in just a few short years!
    For details, see

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    mike allen, Jan 10th, 2009 @ 12:52am

    what about

    most people now use a web mail cliant like say hotmail this may not even be UK based and will have nothing to do with the ISP how will the gov track that. + encryption etc etc This is not going to be workable is it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    SpecialEd, Jan 10th, 2009 @ 1:49am


    The way email works, it is sent unencrypted. It is sent in the open, like a post card or shouting to someone in the park.

    I can't agree with forcing ISPs to retain all email, but I could see law enforcement putting in snoopers to copy unencrypted traffic for later use.

    Don't like it? Use encrypted email or web-based messaging systems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2009 @ 7:09am

    Re: Email

    SpecialEd -> "I could see law enforcement putting in snoopers to copy unencrypted traffic for later use."

    Used to be (in US) that a warrant was required for this. It has something to do with the Bill of Rights. But recently these are have been treated as though they were only guidelines.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Carl Barron, Jan 10th, 2009 @ 8:45am

    ‘Excessive Government Snooping’

    A simple answer to this problem would be for the ISP companies to Bill the Government for additional work. That might well halt this infringement of privacy in its tracks.

    Businesses will be in serious jeopardy as to leaks regarding intended contracts etc.

    Carl Barron
    Chairman of agpcuk
    Action Group for the Protection of Communities UK

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Rick, Jan 11th, 2009 @ 4:28pm

    technical workaround

    There is a technical workaround to this kind of government surveillance. Use encrypted links to an overseas mail server. I use such a system now. Sub Rosa is an subscription (cheap) based email service run on a server in Panama. Panama has strong privacy laws. The server supports GPG message encryption and adds another layer of encryption to messages stored on the server. It can be used either through a normal email client like Thunderbird or through a webmail interface. The site is at

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Joker, Jan 11th, 2009 @ 11:44pm


    The bigger joke, that nobody has clued onto yet.. the database is going to be FULL of spam... making it even harder yet to find anything useful.. and probably filling 75% of their database!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Annony, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 12:09am

    Well in the USA govt can just get information from your ISP without too much trouble like warrents or showing there is good reason that a specific persons email should be looked at. Also the govt does not stop private companies from collecting data on all citizens/residents/non-residents because then they can get that info with no problems. There is no longer much of peoples lives that is private anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re: technical workaround

    Panama has strong privacy laws.

    You're naive if you don't realize that the British govt. could get whatever info it wanted from Panama through the U.S. govt.. The U.S. still has one of Panama's ex-leaders rotting in prison right now to remind the Panamanians of their place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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