Social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have become household names over the past few years, with Facebook racking up an estimated 132.1 million visitors by June 2008, closely followed by MySpace’s 117.6 million. However, British visitors to these websites could now have their contact with other members tracked and recorded. The Home Office announced a plan at the end of April whereby communication service providers will be asked to record contact between people in an attempt to catch crime before it occurs, incorporating the monitoring of social networking websites and mobile phone networks.
The Home Office has estimated that the project will cost in the region of £2 billion. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has commented that this is not an attempt to invade the privacy of the British public but argues that these measures are a necessary step forward in crime prevention. “Communications data is an essential tool for law enforcement agencies to track murderers, paedophiles, save lives and tackle crime.” The Home Office has also been keen to assure the public that it is ‘contact not content’ that will be monitored in an attempt to preserve privacy for the users of social networking websites.