UK internet spying requests result in faulty arrests

UK authorities increased the number of requests they made about the public’s use of texts, emails and other communications data last year, an official report has revealed. The report also revealed that mistakes made while using the information led to six members of the public being wrongly detained or accused of a crime.  It said there were more than 570,000 demands made in 2012.  A further error resulted in the police visiting the wrong address while looking for a child who had threatened to harm themselves. These included officers not having been granted the necessary permissions before intercepting the data; mistakes which led to the wrong data being obtained; and errors made when the data was being copied.
Officials made a further 570,135 requests for information about who was involved in communications, when they were made and where they happened.
The name of an email account holder and the time and date of a person’s telephone calls are included in this group.
The report said there were a total of 979 mistakes made involving these kinds of requests.
Approximately 80% were the fault of public authorities and 20% were caused by the networks that provided the phone and internet data.
Although the police and intelligence services accounted for the bulk of these queries, local authorities could also ask for data to identify criminals who had avoided paying taxes, illegally dumped waste, sold counterfeit goods. The report said 160 local authorities across the UK made a total of 2,605 requests.
“The idea that one commissioner with a handful of staff can meaningfully scrutinise 570,000 surveillance requests is laughable,” said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch.”If the public are to have confidence that these powers are being used properly our entire surveillance regime, devised before Facebook even existed, is in need of a total overhaul to bring it in line with modern technology and to ensure people’s privacy is not intruded upon either without good reason or by mistake.”

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