Comms data an essential crimefighting tool in an increasingly digital age - NPCC responds to Anderson review
The National Police Chiefs' Council has responded to a review by David Anderson QC - the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation - into investigatory powers.
National Police Chiefs' Council Chair Sara Thornton said:
“Crime is increasingly being committed online or arranged through digital communications, whether by fraudsters, rapists, child abusers or terrorists. At the same time, our access to communications data is rapidly degrading and it is important that the public are aware of the impact this is having.
“Communications data is the ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ of a communication, not what is written or said. We use it to tackle not just terrorism but the broadest range of crimes including tracking down missing children and catching the cyber fraudsters who emptied your bank account.
“In recent years, more blind spots have developed where police cannot effectively trace criminal activity. Children have been driven to self-harm by harassment and bullying online but our attempts to investigate and stop it are curtailed by our inability to see who is talking to them on social media. We are struggling to track down paedophiles who are arranging and streaming the sexual abuse of children on the web because we can't get access to information on servers in other countries or our current powers don't let us get through some encryptions. We are trying to trace vulnerable missing people but can't get to them quickly enough because we can't identify where a call providing crucial intelligence has come from.
"We support David Anderson QC’s finding that there should be “no no go areas” for those charged with law enforcement because without access to communications data we are less able to keep people safe. Proposed legislative changes to strengthen our access to communications data will help us to keep up with rapid changes in technology and emerging threats. We simply do not have the coverage which we had five years ago.
“Our ability to intercept or acquire communications data is governed by law and strict codes of practice with built-in safeguards, which take full account of the important principles of necessity, proportionality and collateral intrusion. Additionally, we have developed a new Digital Ethics Panel that will ensure we are meeting the highest ethical standards in this area of policing."