There is an outcry today by privacy activists about the government`s proposal to monitor social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo. Under the proposal, the details of users of such sites will be kept in a central database which is operated by a private company.
The Government is quick to point out that it is not interested by the content of the exchanges passing between users. However, it is not clear what safeguards it will put in place to ensure that the content per se is protected from such monitoring. However, and perhaps more crucially, it still does not deal with the objections related to the use/storage of personal and sensitive data by the Government. The Government justifies this proposal on the grounds of enabling the police and security services to keep up-to-date with the technological advances. However, it seems that the proposal does not contemplate imposing conditions for monitoring such sites (e.g. a minimum threshold before the details of a user are deemed to qualify for monitoring). Under the current proposals, the Government seems to be asking for a 'blank cheque' liberty to monitor all the data of all users of social networking sites which is not commensurate with the alleged security interests.