UK Home Office Security Minister Vernon Coaker this week announced that he feels the EU Data Retention Directive, which would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to record and store all Internet traffic data on their systems for a year, does not go far enough.

Coaker is proposing that all communications on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, which are not covered under the EU directive, be recorded and stored under Britain’s own Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP). His plan also targets instant messaging (IM) sevices.

Free speech and privacy advocates warn that Coaker’s latest initiative is ‘extremely invasive’, enormously expensive and, ultimately, unworkable.

Critics note that a large number of Internet users don’t use ISP-based systems for communication. Many Web mail users, for instance, could easily fall through the new government surveillance net.

Coaker’s proposal to expand the IMP to include social networking sites and instant messaging services is still in the early stages of discussion and would, in any case, require passage of a measure by the UK parliament to be implemented.

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