Internet service providers are now obliged to store the details of every email sent in the UK, under an EU directive that came into force as UK law yesterday.
Under the new law, likely to further anger privacy campaigners, ISPs must store for a year the details of emails as well as all internet sites visited. Many of the large ISPs already store such details voluntarily, but smaller providers often do not.
The data may be accessible to over 600 public bodies, such as the police and councils, it was previously reported. The government may even have to pay over £25 million to help ISPs set up the system, under which they will store the data for a year.
When news emerged in January that the directive would become UK law, the Home Office said the data was a vital tool for investigation and intelligence gathering. "It will allow investigators to identify suspects, examine their contacts, establish relationships between conspirators and place them in a specific location at a certain time,” a spokesperson said.