By Alex Stevenson
The government may ask a private firm to manage its proposed superdatabase of communications data.
The Guardian newspaper reported the proposal would be contained in a consultation paper due next month by home secretary Jacqui Smith.
The growing use of communications database is placing an unrealistic strain on private telecommunications firms, the government argues.
As a result it proposes a centralised superdatabase to solve the problem. Stronger legal safeguards would meet the heightened data security placing it in the hands of a private firm would entail, it is believed.
But former director of public prosecutions Sir Ken MacDonald has spoken out against the government's plans, despite supporting the use of communications data evidence.
"No other country is considering such a drastic step," he told the Guardian.
"This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information.
"It would be a complete readout of every citizen's life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls."
At present the superdatabase would not give the government access to the content of emails, conversations, or other forms of communication. Instead only names, addresses, phone numbers would be stored.