Beware the Ides of March

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The introduction of rules forcing Internet companies to keep details of every e-mail for one year will come into force on the 15th March this year. The new rules will come into force as part of a European Commission Directive. It will prove to be highly illiberal, costly and ineffective.

The Ides of March will give over 600 public bodies access to your emails. Granting access to the police is one thing, but letting local councils, health authorities, and the likes of the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Commission and Ofsted trawl through you emails is quite another.

Taxpayers will be charged to the tune of somewhere between £25 and £70 million to pay Internet Service Providers (ISP) for this. This is not small change. It will prove ineffective because as Dr Richard Clayton has made clear, much of emails are spam. As he says, “There are much better things to do to spend our billions on than snooping on everybody in the country just on the off-chance that they're a criminal."

Obviously the costs on Internet Service Providers (ISP) will be great. As such the Home Office has been hinting that smaller providers will be exempt. Thus, your average criminal is unlikely to be  signing up to Virgin, AOL or BT. This is not a loophole, but a black hole.

So as individuals, our privacy will be opened up to the whims of anyone with a name badge, but in generally our security would be no less improved. If you know anyone in the country that thinks this is a good idea, please refer him or her to their nearest mental asylum.