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The government could be allowed to monitor the messages sent on social networking sites such as Facebook, it has been revealed.

The government could be allowed to monitor the messages sent on social networking sites such as Facebook, it has been revealed.

Under the EU's Data Retention Directive, ISPs are already required to store information about emails sent and received for one year but the content of the emails is not currently documented.

However, Vernon Coaker, Minister of State for policing, crime and security said this directive does not go far enough. He told a Commons committee: "Social-networking sites, such as MySpace or Bebo are not covered by the directive."

"That is one reason why the government are looking at what we should do about the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP), because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive," he said.

Coaker confirmed that the plans "may include requiring the retention of data on Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, and all other similar sites".

"I accept this is an extremely difficult area. The interface between retaining data, private security and all such issues of privacy is extremely important," he added.

Plans already exist for a super database that will also hold details of every telephone conversation, text message, email and online movements of residents of the UK.

But the Home Office moved quickly to deny the proposals will cover the content of social networking sites.

"The government has no interest in the content of people's social network sites and this is not going to be part of our forthcoming consultation," a spokesman told the Telegraph newspaper.

"To ensure that we keep up with technological advances we intend to consult widely on proposals shortly. We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing the content of emails, texts, conversations or social networking sites."