U.K. plans to expand Internet surveillance powers

Wednesday, 12 March 2003, 4:52 PM EST

The government said Tuesday that it plans to give more officials and local authorities the power to monitor private e-mail and mobile telephone records in a bid to tackle organized crime and terrorism in Britain.

In its proposed changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, the government also recommended that telecommunications agencies keep information about subscribers for up to one year to assist the detection of terrorist activity.

Civil liberties groups have criticized the much publicized proposals, branding them a "snoopers' charter" and the harbinger of an Orwellian state.

Under the existing law, the police, intelligence agencies, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue Service have the authority to demand records of e-mail, mobile phone and Internet traffic.

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