UK Govt is unwelcome Facebook friend

Facebook believes the government's plans are "overkill"
Facebook believes the government's plans are "overkill"

Most people wouldn't want their parents looking at their status updates, let alone the government, but plans are afoot for the UK's intelligence services to monitor the public's web communications.

The idea is being proposed by the Home Office, and is part of the government's plan to monitor and log all phone calls, emails and websites visited on a central database.

This would mean that your Facebook, MySpace and BeBo friends would be logged. Considering around 50 per cent of the UK is on a social-networking site, that's a lot of information,

Deeply worrying

Speaking to ZDnet, Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer is unsurprisingly unhappy with the plans and believes it's too excessive.

"We think monitoring all user traffic is overkill. There is legislation to allow law enforcement access to traffic data [of suspects]. We are not convinced at this time that expansion of those channels is necessary."

He continued: "One of the reasons that Facebook has been so successful is that it provides greater privacy controls than any other [social-networking service] on the internet.

"The privacy controls allow people to share information in a comfortable, safe and trusted environment. We are not convinced at this time that expansion of those channels is necessary."

The Independent spoke to Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake about the database, which has been dubbed a 'snoopers' charter', and he is also wary of the government's plans: "It is deeply worrying that they now intend to monitor social networking sites which contain very sensitive data like sexual orientation, religious beliefs and political views."

No interest from government

When the BBC spoke to the Home Office, however, a spokesperson played down the social-networking aspect of the proposal, saying: "The government has no interest in the content of people's social network sites and this is not going to be part of our upcoming consultation.

"We have been clear that 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 terrorism and gather evidence."

This is despite Home Office secretary Verne Coaker saying last week that there were plans to keep hold of traffic data for all messages on social-networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo, as part of the government's Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP).

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.