British government may snoop on social websites

Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:42am EDT
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Social networking websites like Facebook could be forced to pass on details of users' friends and contacts under British government proposals to fight terrorism.

Millions of Britons use sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace to chat with friends, but ministers are concerned the rapidly evolving technology could be exploited by extremists.

Critics have attacked the plans as more evidence of big government intruding into people's lives.

The Home Office confirmed on Wednesday that the government was looking into the possibility of monitoring networking sites, but said the idea was only at a consultation stage.

It also insisted it had no interest in the content of private conversations, simply on who is talking to whom.

"We have been clear that the communications revolution has been rapid in this country and the way in which we collect communications data needs to change so that law enforcement agencies can maintain their ability to tackle terrorism and gather evidence," a Home Office spokesman said.

"We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing the content of emails, texts, conversations or social networking sites," he added.

The spokesman said the government would begin consulting industry and the public on ways of closing potential loopholes created by technology used by social sites soon.   Continued...