U.K. ministers must do more to hinder Internet service providers from snooping on private emails without prior permission, a former cybersecurity minister said.
In the United Kingdom, some ISPs have implemented software that intercepts and scans emails to target ads. Although consent is required, former Labour Minister Lord Alan West says it is too easy to disregard the rules, BBC News reported.
Interception of emails without the sender’s knowledge or consent is already a criminal offense in the United Kingdom, but West stressed further action is needed to prevent misuse.
West said on Tuesday he had ordered officials to start work on a crackdown when he was in government, but there was not enough time before the last election to make the necessary changes.
The issue of email snooping is “important for the nation,” the ex-minister said.
“Giving private companies the right to go and look into people’s e-mails is something I find rather unhealthy,” he added. “If, as a minister, I wanted to look at someone’s emails I would, quite rightly, have to seek the permission of the home secretary. But these companies want the right to go into people’s emails and look for key words without anyone’s permission.”
According to BBC, civil liberties advocates say the use of Deep Packet Inspection software is common in the United Kingdom, and those who object to it have little to say.
Privacy International‘s campaigns adviser Alex Hanff told BBC companies were “deliberately” intercepting emails “for commercial gain”, and Deep Packet Inspection was being used “almost across the board” by mobile broadband providers in the nation.