It's the standard procedure – new technology allows greater freedom, the long arm of the law gets a sweat on and clamps down. According to today's Guardian, police and intelligence agencies are to ask the government for the power to listen to and identify VoIP (voice over internet protocol) callers.
To be entirely fair, the lobbyists claim that their main concern is VoIP's inability to deliver a 999 service. But the Guardian article quotes a submission to Ofcom, made on 3 May by one detective superintendent Stuart Macleod, outlining the worries of the Data Communications Group – a police and industry liaison body that reports to Acpo (the Association of Chief Police Officers), Revenue and Customs, and Soca (the Serious and Organised Crime Agency), among others:
"At present, law enforcement agencies have great difficulty in tracing the origin of VoIP calls," wrote DS Macleod. "This poses significant threats to our democratic society.
"And it is for this reason that the DCG believes that it must be mandatory for VoIP service providers to be required to retain adequate records in respect of calls made using this technology."
There are echos here of attempts in the US courts to get Google to cough up details of people’s internet searches. We await the outcome with interest.
For more information, our sister site Techworld has a comprehensive VoIP.