You could be forgiven for not having realised that, as of today, a European Union directive requires all internet service providers to retain information on email traffic, visits to web sites and telephone calls for 12 months, since the government have been so sneaky about it (clearly their information is a lot less public that ours).
I have already discussed the worrying implications for people who visit odd websites, and naturally privacy is an issue (you don’t want the Home Office knowing about all that Harry Potter porn you’ve been looking at), but another issue for concern is that the extra storage needed for all this data will be paid for by the Home Office. Which means bigger tax bills all round (one mobile phone company alone is charging the Home Office £875,000 to retain the information).
Obviously in a time of financial crisis we’d all like to avoid this unnecessary cost, so here are a few tips to keep our taxes down and also maintain a modicum of privacy:
1. If you visit a website which lots of other people read, print out the best pages so they can all look at it without building up additional data for internet service providers to store. Or if it’s a particularly embarrassing website, get somebody else to print it out for you.
2. Stop using the internet to send messages. Now may well be the time to return to simpler, older methods of communication – in offices, slipping notes across desks, or those whooshy vacuum delivery systems that go through whole buildings, make for methods of communication which simply can’t be tracked by the Home Office, and cost the taxpayer nothing. As Young Letter Writer of the Year 1987 I thoroughly advocate the return of the good old-fashioned letter for more personal correspondence.
3. If you absolutely MUST send an email, try to include in it as much information as you can about any terrorist attacks or groups you are aware of. That way it’s not a complete waste of money when that email is stored for the next 12 months.
4. If you’re going to look at porn, use good old-fashioned pay-per-view channels rather than the internet. That way the Home Office will never find out. Unless you do something stupid like sticking the cost into the Home Secretary’s expenses claim…