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UK Email Archiving Program Kicks Off

Giving hundreds of public bodies access to the data of nearly every online communication sent in the UK, a new EU scheme put into place Monday requires all British Internet service providers to retain all information on email traffic, visits to web sites and telephone calls made over the Internet for a period of 12 months.

Much to the chagrin of privacy advocates, according to London's Daily Telegraph, even the smallest ISP is required to catalogue the details of each email sent and every website visited by Britons are to be stored for one year. Information held includes sender, recipient time of the message, however, the content is omitted.

The EU initiative was passed in an effort to help police and the security services access information to combat crime and terrorism.

While the security measures have been criticized as a means of contributing to a mass surveillance society, there is also discontent among ISVs, which complain that they were not properly involved in the decision making process.

"We regret that the legislation has been put through without real consultation with the players in the market," Thierry Dieu of ETNO, the European telecoms networks operators association, told the Telegraph. "The UK is the only country which has decided to reimburse the cost of retaining all the data. It remains to be seen whether this will cover all the costs."

It's not only businesses, however, that are going to face potentially enormous costs. Yahoo! TECH blogger Christopher Null notes that the cost of reimbursing ISPs and telecoms for the storage of billions of individual records will weigh heavily on the shoulders of the taxpayer.

"A report dating back to 2004 estimated that a single, large ISP in the UK would need up to 40 million gigabytes of storage capacity to store the traffic data from a year of user activity," wrote Null. "Even in 2009, that kind of storage doesn't come cheap, nor does the challenge of managing it all come easy."

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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