Interception Modernisation Programme

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The Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) was a UK government initiative to extend the government's capabilities for lawful interception and storage of communications data. It was widely reported that the IMP's eventual goal was to store details of all UK communications data in a central database.[1]

The proposal was similar to the NSA Call Database (MAINWAY) established by GCHQ's American counterpart NSA and the Titan traffic database established by the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment.[citation needed][2]

In 2008 plans were being made to collect data on all phone calls, emails, chatroom discussions and web-browsing habits as part of the IMP, thought likely to require the insertion of 'thousands' of black box probes into the country's computer and telephone networks.[3] The proposals were expected to be included in the Communications Data Bill 2008. The "giant database" would include telephone numbers dialled, the websites visited and addresses to which e-mails are sent "but not the content of e-mails or telephone conversations."[4] Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Home affairs spokesman said: "The government's Orwellian plans for a vast database of our private communications are deeply worrying."[5] Despite this, the Home Office denied reports that a prototype of the IMP had already been built.[6]

Reports in April 2009 suggested that the government had changed its public stance to one of using legal measures to compel communications providers to store the data themselves, and making it available for government to access; then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stated that "there are absolutely no plans for a single central store."[7]

The new plans were thought to involve spending £2bn on paying ISPs to install deep packet inspection equipment within their own networks, and obliging them to perform the cross-correlation and profiling of their users' behaviour themselves,[8] in effect achieving the original goals of the IMP by different means.

A detailed analysis was published by the Policy Engagement Network of the London School of Economics[9] on 16 June 2009. The All Party Privacy Group held a hearing on IMP in the House of Commons on 1 July 2009.[10]

In 2010 the new coalition government apparently revived the IMP[11] in its Strategic Defence and Security Review.[12] The new version of the IMP was known as the Communications Capabilities Development Programme.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spy chiefs plot £12bn IT spree for comms überdatabase". The Register. 7 October 2008.
  2. ^ Wright, Joss. "The government's proposal for data communications surveillance will be invasive and costly with minimal effectiveness". British Politics and Policy at LSE.
  3. ^ Leppard, David (5 October 2008). "There's no hiding place as spy HQ plans to see all". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 8 February 2009.
  4. ^ "Concern over giant database idea". BBC News. 15 October 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2008. The government's terror watchdog has expressed concern about proposals for a giant database to store details of all phone calls, e-mails and internet use.
  5. ^ "Giant database plan 'Orwellian'". BBC News. 15 October 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2008. Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "The government's Orwellian plans for a vast database of our private communications are deeply worrying." "I hope that this consultation is not just a sham exercise to soft-soap an unsuspecting public."
  6. ^ Home Office denies prototype intercept database
  7. ^ Dunt, Ian (27 April 2009). "Home Office rules out telephone surveillance database". Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2009.
  8. ^ " to spend £2bn on ISP tracking". The Register. 27 April 2009.
  9. ^ "LSE IMP Briefing" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  10. ^ APPG IMP Hearing Agenda 1 July 2009[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ A u-turn on reversing the surveillance state
  12. ^ "Strategic Defence and Security Review" (Press release). Department for International Development. Archived 11 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Mitchell, Stewart (20 February 2012). "Anger over mass web surveillance plans". PC Pro. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2012.

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