Government measures to massively increase surveillance of the internet will be in place within five years.
In its departmental business plan, published today, the Home Office said it aims that "key proposals [will be] implemented for the storage and acquisition of internet and e-mail records" by June 2015.
The plan is the latest incarnation of the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), a much-delayed initiative, backed by the intelligence agencies, to capture details of who contacts whom, when and where*, online.
The Labour government shelved IMP before the election, but it has been revived by the coalition, despite a promise to "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason".
Confusingly, today's Home Office document says it will "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason" via "proposals for the storage and acquisition of internet and email records".
It also pledges to introduce legislation "if necessary". While in opposition the security minister, Baroness Neville-Jones, sharply criticised any move to gather more communications data without primary legislation.
The government has said it will give details of its proposals before the end of this year. It is currently unclear whether it will retain the IMP label, but the aims of the programme are unchanged.
At Prime Minister's Questions recently, David Cameron said: "We are not considering a central government database to store all communications information, and we shall be working with the Information Commissioner's Office on anything we do in that area."
When Labour held a consultation on IMP it was not proposing a central database, but measures to compel ISPs to intercept and store communications data on behalf of the intelligence services and police. ®
*Communications data does not include the content of communications, which authorities require a warrant from the Home Secretary to access. Senior intelligence and police officers can authorise access to communications data themselves.