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Intercept Modernisation Programme announced


In August 2008, the UK Home Office announced the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP)  which was designed to improve its ability to intercepting and store communications data. Defenders have insisted that this was merely an attempt to deal with changing nature of communications, including VoIP, which were eroding previous intercept capability and long-established practice. Detractors claimed that this proposal marks a paradigm shift in domestic interception, insisting that this would result in much or all of the UK communications data being held in a central database. There is no doubt that it would have made data-mining with robot algorithms much easier. Britain's internet providers and telecom companies were highly critical and tended to side with the latter view that this was an unwarranted extension of state power.

The most formidable opponent was the Treasury who were horrified at the estimated £12 billion budget for IMP. The Treasury had a long memory of previous government IT failures in the realm of intelligence and security, going all the way back to the infamous MoD Trawlerman disaster in the early 1990s. By 2009, financial pressures had stalled IMP and instead the government had fallen back on using legal measures to compel communications providers to store the data themselves. This makes it harder to conduct wholesale surveillance and is probably a better solution.

On 1 July 2009, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Privacy took evidence on the subject from Tim Hayward, Director of the Intercept Modernisation Progamme at the Home Office. Tim Hayward was appointed in August 2008 and reportedly was previously head of 3G network architecture at Vodaphone.

Current financial constraints are widely presumed to have slowed activity in this area. However, on 25 January 2010, IMP was still under way in some form. The Board of the National Police Improvement Agency noted that there had been 'an additional allocation of funding' for Intercept Modernisation, along with several other projects. 

Intercept from communications is increasing hard to separate out from other forms of electronic data, much of it very mundane, that is increasingly used by those conducting intelligence investigations. The CIA has called this 'the electronic exhaust fumes of our lives'.


Peter Sommer and Gus Hosein, Briefing on the Interception Modernisation Programme, Policy Engagement Network, Information Systems and Innovation Group, LSE. (PDF Document)

All Party Parliamentary Group on Privacy, 'APPG Inquiry into communications data surveillance proposals & the Interception Modernisation Programme', 24th July 2009. (PDF Document)

STIC/OrbisIP, 'Large Scale Data Analytics & the Intercept Modernisation Programme' - New Tools for Intelligence Analaysis and Tracking: Improving Analytical Tools – The Future of Interrogating Data, London,  26 October 2010. (PDF Document)


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