Government weighing up cost of internet snooping

Houses of parliament

MPs are set to come together to discuss how much it's expected to cost if ISPs are to start tracking citizen internet usage as part of the Investigatory Powers Bill.

As part of the proposals, internet providers will be expected to track how people are using the internet, including the websites they visit, services they use and other traffic passing through a network. These internet connection records would hold up to a year's worth of data, but it will also cost a lot of money for the information to be collected and stored.

The Science and Technology Committee wants to investigate exactly how much these changes will cost and how it would be tracked. It has earmarked 175m of the budget to help service providers gather the data over a period of ten years, but wants to know whether this is enough.

Adrian Kennard, head of UK ISP Andrews and Arnold, told the BBC: "Just getting a couple of racks, in different locations, with physical security will be many thousands [of pounds] per month," he said. "Then [you need] multiple redundant servers and disk storage at each site and then the back-haul links to send and access the data, with suitable encryption."

The Science and Technology Committee asked in the same notice issued to MPs whether it is possible for ISPs to meet the requirements set out in the bill and invited comments from MPs about the information they would like tracked.

Part of the investigation will involve working out whether it is possible for ISPs to separate the data about a particular visit to a website from other services they use a website for. For example, although someone may visit a site related to terrorism, they may not actually act upon it or use the website for anything other than referencing information.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.