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UK: INTERCEPTION MODERNISATION PROGRAMME (IMP) to be resurrected
01 October 2010
UK: INTERCEPTION MODERNISATION PROGRAMME (IMP) to be resurrected: Alarm bells started to ring when the Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review
(pdf, published 19 October) contained the following government commitment to:
"introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework... We will legislate to put in place the necessary regulations and safeguards to ensure that our response to this technology challenge is compatible with the Government’s approach to information storage and civil liberties.
" [emphasis added]
The fact that the announcement came through the Defence Review and not the National Security Strategy: A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty
(pdf, published 18 October) indicates that GCHQ's (Government Communications Headquarters, the UK's equivalent to the USA NSA electronic spying agency) long-held demand to run the £12 billion Interception Modernisation Programme is back on the agenda.
See: Green light for spooks' net snoop plan
(The Register, link) "The coalition government has approved a multibillion-pound plan by the intelligence agencies to store details of every online conversation.
"The reemerging Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) means internet providers will be forced to install interception equipment in their networks to capture details of who contacts whom, when, where and how via services such as Facebook, Skype, webmail, and online games.
"Under the most likely scenario, Deep Packet Inspection technology will be configured by GCHQ to grab such data from passing traffic and store it in vast silos run by communications providers. The same technology will also allow for the content of communications to be intercepted.
Note 1: The ability to "intercept" communications as they happen in "real-time" (which only GCHQ can do) is quite distinct from the existing powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which only covers obtaining access to communication data: See Interception figures: 1937-2009
Note 2: the Interception Modernisation Programme will also have the ability to collect and store records covering e-mails, faxes, phone-calls, mobile-phone calls (including location), Internet usage (including content) plus IP based communications used by Facebook, Skype etc.
Note 3: Background: LSE: Briefing on the Interception Modernisation Programme
(pdf) and Database state