GCHQ denies developing internet snooping tech

Dear Diary, the government is reading you as well
Dear Diary, the government is reading you as well

The Government is not pushing ahead with a scheme to monitor the UK's electronic traffic, with GCHQ issuing a public statement insisting that it is not developing technology to monitor SMS, telephone calls and internet usage.

GCHQ is the agency charged with monitoring electronic communications, working closely with MI5 to protect the country.

However, persistent rumours that snooping technology was being put into place brought a rare public statement from the agency.

Not targeting everyone

"GCHQ is not developing technology to enable the monitoring of all internet use and phone calls in Britain, or to target everyone in the UK," the statement said.

"Similarly, GCHQ has no ambitions, expectations or plans for a database or databases to store centrally all communications data in Britain."

The rumours reached a new peak with the suggestion that a project called 'Mastering the Internet' (MTI) was really a technology that could snoop through the millions of electronic communications, and internet usage, coming through the UK.

Keeping pace

GCHQ confirmed that the project exists, but insisted that it was merely keeping pace with the modern world.

"One of our greatest challenges is maintaining our capability in the face of the growth in internet-based communications and voice-over internet telephony. We must reinvest continuously to keep up with the methods that are used by those who threaten the UK and its interests," added the statement.

"Just as our predecessors at Bletchley Park mastered the use of the first computers, partnering with industry, we need to master the use of internet technologies and skills that will enable us to keep one step ahead of the threats.

"This is what mastering the internet is about."

Home secretary Jacqi Smith had also ruled out a centralised database of emails and other electronic communications recently.

Via PA

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.