The telecommunications companies EE, Vodafone and Three have passed along data about their customer’s call records to the cops, which can be accessed via a simple computer program.
It gets even better: it’s an automatic process. An employee of one of the firms referred to the system being “like a cash machine.”
A spokesperson for Privacy International said that “if companies are providing communications data to law enforcement on autopilot, it’s as good as giving police direct access [to individual phone bills.]” However, not all UK companies are in on this racket, and the operator 02 has a policy requiring all police requests for data to be reviewed before release.
It is required by law that all mobile operators must keep records of the call lists made by their customers for a year. This store is open access for the police force who can dig their noses in without applying for a warrant. This legal ability is known as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
This law has been viewed as the holy grail for those wishing to engage in mass surveillance of the people’s communication habits. However, there have been a lot of displeased people investigating the law after it was used to expose sources used by journalists. London resident Keith Mann is among those dissatisfied.
Journalists have the legal right to protect their sources.
Thanks to the abilities of modern technology, an awful lot of the data gathered by the police force is gathered automatically. This brings up questions about how much data they should be allowed to access and, indeed, if most of it is totally irrelevant to their operations.
Source – The Guardian