Technology critic and Convention advisor Bill Thompson has a good article on governent data retention plans over at Index on Censorship. The government attempts to reassure us by pointing out that under current plans only the details of sender/receiver are stored and not the content of communications. But, as Bill warns, once these powers are granted, “mission creep is inevitable” and it is only a matter of time before they are extended. Even under the existing plans there are alarming ways in which these new powers can be used:
Whatever limits are currently in place on who gets access to the stored records, once the database is there it will be used. This should worry us all but it is particularly concerning for any journalist working in the UK.
The law does not provide any special protection or privilege for us, and emails sent to or from indexoncensorship.org, bbc.co.uk and guardian.co.uk will be stored along with everyone else’s
That is going to make leak inquiries a lot easier. For example, if I write a story that embarrasses the justice secretary then it will be possible to go back through a year’s worth of my emails and texts to see if I’ve had any contact at all with potential leakers inside the department and focus investigation on them.