Digital Transformation

Report suggests ‘black boxes’ could soon monitor internet

A report has shown MI5 wants to monitor internet communications more closely.

A new report has shown that UK intelligence services want to implement a monitoring system for the internet across the country in order to be able to track potential terrorist plots.

The Intelligence and Security Committee document shows MI5 is keen to log as many things that are posted and sent online as possible, something it thinks could be achieved with devices similar to the black box recorders used on aircraft.

In order to do this, deals would have to be established with internet service providers to get them to agree to having probes placed on their networks.

These could then collect communications data each time it is sent using a method called Deep Packet Inspection.

It would mean popular sites such as Twitter and Skype would be monitored for potential dangers to the government or members of the public.

MI5 chief Jonathan Evans said: "Access to communications data of one sort or another is very important indeed. It’s part of the backbone of the way in which we would approach investigations."

Although this tracking would mean all "outside of the envelope" messages being stored, Mr Evans insisted that viewing or listening to the actual contents of communications such as phone calls and emails would require a court order.

The proposals have been met with outrage from civil liberties campaigners, who are worried about data protection and the potential for hackers to access the stored information.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for ministers to justify monitoring every member of the population instead of developing their ability to monitor people who are under suspicion," said Nick Pickles from Big Brother Watch in an interview with ZDNet.

The Queen’s speech to parliament last year carried suggestions that the government wanted to set up a database with which to monitor communications.

However, the government may encounter problems, as some organisations are now encouraging businesses and the public alike to purchase encryption software in order to better hide their sensitive information.