London, May 20 : The British Home Office is reported to have sounded out telecommunication firms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) about creating a huge database on every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public.
This exercise is being considered with the objective of countering crime and terrorism. According to The Telegraph, this information would be held for at least a year to enable police and security services to access it if given permission from the courts.
It is expected that there will be concern about the ability of the Government to manage a system holding billions of records. About 57 billion text messages were sent in Britain last year, while an estimated three billion e-mails are sent every day.
Home Office officials say this database is part of preparations for a data communications Bill to be announced in the Queen's November speech.
But the plan has not been sent to ministers yet.
Industry sources gave warning that a single database would be at greater risk of attack and abuse.
Jonathan Bamford, the assistant Information Commissioner, said: "This would give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far."
David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: "Given [ministers'] appalling record at maintaining the integrity of databases holding people's sensitive data, this could well be more of a threat to our security, than a support."
The proposal has emerged as part of plans to implement an EU directive developed after the July 7 bombings to bring uniformity of record-keeping.