Private firm could track all our calls and texts

A private company could soon track our texts and calls
A private company could soon track our texts and calls

All data about UK call, text, email and internet use could be handled by a private firm in an effort to cut costs, sparking fears that the information could eventually be leaked.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith is set to publish a consultation paper on the subject next month containing a key option over the proposed handover of the scheme to the private sector.

Currently telecommunications firms store all the data, which can be obtained by the authorities as evidence in crime investigation. But the Government wants a unified database containing all the tracking information to speed up the process.

Worries the scheme could cost up to £12 billion has led to exploration of alternative options, and the move to a private company could be the answer. The plan also includes tough locks and assurances on database to ensure that the information never falls into the wrong hands.


However Sir Ken Macdonald, former director of public prosecutions (DPP), told the Guardian it would only be a matter of time before the database was compromised.

"Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything," Macdonald said to the Guardian.

"All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen."

"It is a process which can save lives and bring criminals to justice. But no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information," he added.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.