British Government May Monitor Social-Networking Sites

The private correspondence of millions of people who use social-networking sites could be tracked and saved on a "big brother" database under new plans being drawn up by the British government.

Government officials revealed Tuesday that they were considering policing messages sent via sites such as MySpace and Facebook alongside plans to store information about every phone call, e-mail and Internet visit made by everyone in the United Kingdom.

There was immediate uproar from opposition parties, privacy campaigners and security experts who said the plans were over-the-top and unworkable.

There have long been proposals, following an European Union directive in the wake of the July 2005 bombings in London, for e-mails and Internet usage to be tracked in order to guard against future terrorist attacks.

But since then, social-networking sites have exploded in popularity, with around half the British population thought to be using them. Security services fear that this is a loophole that terrorists and criminals could exploit.

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