UK police make fresh demands for user data every 2 minutes

That accounts for roughly 670 requests per day for user's metadata, like who they call and when.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
(Image: stock image)

UK police are demanding hundreds of private records on its citizens daily, with most of them signed off internally and with little oversight.

A new report shows that police are increasingly hungry for communications data -- such as who, where, and when calls, emails and text messages are made -- with a fresh demand made to phone operators every two minutes.

That totals to 670 demands every day, or more than 733,200 in a year.

On average per year, the report said 96 percent of all demands are approved before they are carried out. That's because the demands are self-stamped by police forces under existing surveillance laws open to police and intelligence agencies. Though a senior police officer must sign off on the data grab, there's rarely any judicial oversight.

"It is clear from the reports' findings that disparity exists amongst police forces on what is considered necessary and proportionate for a request for Communications Data and why a refusal for access is given," said the report. "If law enforcement persists with calls for greater access, internal procedures will need to be clarified, transparency about the process published and independent judicial approval brought in as part of the authorization process."

It comes as the UK government, hot off winning the election trail, seeks to put forward its communications data legislation, which would mirror laws in the US that recently expired.

Dubbed the "snoopers' charter," it was blocked during the previous government by its coalition partners, but was revived in the Conservative's election manifesto. The bill, if it becomes law, would give government agencies far wider access to phone records and browsing activity, text messages, and social media use -- similar to how provisions in the US' Patriot Act worked, which later proved unconstitutional.

Though there has been no firm deadline on introducing the legislation, it's expected later this year, after it was declared in the Queen's speech late last month.

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