In a post-September 11 move, the UK government is set to debate a draft bill that would give it the right to obtain the communications records of British telephone, postal and Internet users without needing a court order.

The government is seeking to extend the powers of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) -
passed two years ago - to seven departments, every local authority in the country, and all of the NHS agencies and offices in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Should it pass, the extension would take effect in August.

RIPA allows police forces, the intelligence services, customs and excise and the Inland Revenue to require UK-based ISPs (Internet service providers), telecoms companies and postal operators to hand over upon request detailed information on individuals.

Information that can be supplied on any individual in the UK includes name and address, source and destination of emails, the URLs of Web sites that the individual has visited and phone calls (land line and mobile) made and received, and mobile-phone location data, which can pinpoint the location of the user to within a few hundred meters.

The draft proposal, made public this week, can be found online.