The PC in your mailbox

The police may soon be allowed to read your email and check your Internet use at will
Published: 1998-09-07

When you drop an envelope in a red pillar-box, you walk away confident that your mail will not be read by anyone except the addressee. However, when you send an email, it might be wise to reflect on the differences.

According to the organisation Internet Freedom, an agreement being negotiated between the UK's internet service providers (ISPs) and the police will open the email of the UK's eight million Internet users to scrutiny without debate in Parliament or oversight by the courts or the Home Secretary.

British police are said to be close to reaching an agreement with ISPs that will enable them to monitor customers' emails and web usage logs. Chris Ellison of Internet Freedom, says: "Following a series of meetings between the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Internet industry representatives, we understand that both groups have stated a willingness to reach a 'memorandum of understanding' about implementing police access to private data held by ISPs."


While the Act has aspects that protect the quality and use of information held in computer systems, disclosure can be afforded by a compliant ISP by simply including appropriate language in the small print of their terms and conditions. Data may be revealed to law enforcement officials as long as the subscriber is notified.


Email is not like a letter in an envelope; it is more like a postcard. Just as you would not put some messages on a postcard, you should think before you use email for your most private communications. While the legality and desirability of any agreement between ACPO and the ISPs is highly debatable, anyone interested in maintaining their privacy on the Internet must take responsibility for their own actions.

The agreement between ACPO and ISPs will be the subject of three seminars: 22 September in Edinburgh, 8 October in London and 27 October in Manchester. Additional details can be found at [now defunct, ed.].

From: The Independent (UK), 7. Sept. 1998\.
More information is at [now at; ed.]

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Paul Lavin
Title: The PC in your mailbox, The police may soon be allowed to read your email and check your Internet use at will
Sources: The Independent (UK), 7. Sept. 1998
Published: 1998-09-07
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 5, 1998, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
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