London, May 3 (ANI): Britain's spy chiefs are reportedly pressing ahead with secret plans to monitor all internet use and telephone calls in Britain despite Home Secretary Jackie Smith's announcement of a ministerial climb down over public surveillance.
GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre, is developing classified technology to intercept and monitor all e-mails, website visits and social networking sessions in Britain. The agency will also be able to track telephone calls made over the internet, as well as all phone calls to land lines and mobiles, reports The Times.
The one billion pound snooping project - called Mastering the Internet (MTI) - will rely on thousands of "black box" probes being covertly inserted across online infrastructure.
The top-secret program began to be implemented last year, but its existence has been inadvertently disclosed through a GCHQ job advertisement carried in the computer trade press.
Last week, in what appeared to be a concession to privacy campaigners, Smith announced that she was ditching controversial plans for a single "big brother" database to store centrally all communications data in Britain.
However, Smith failed to mention that substantial additional sums - amounting to more than a billion pounds over three years - had already been allocated to GCHQ for its MTI program.
An industry insider, who has been briefed on GCHQ's plans, said he could not discuss the program because he had signed the Official Secrets Act. However, he admitted that the project would mark a step change in the agency's powers of surveillance.
Ministers have said they do not intend to snoop on the actual content of e-mails or telephone calls. The monitoring will instead focus on who an individual is communicating with or which websites and chat rooms they are visiting. (ANI)