As a Liberal former police officer I am acutely aware of the difficult balancing act the government has to perform between keeping us safe and keeping our personal data safe. At the same time I see both the anxiety that those concerned with civil liberties have over the new legislation and the Government’s need to act to prevent a valuable crime detection tool slipping from our grasp.
So why the need and why the rush? In cases of serious and organised crime and those plotting terrorist attacks, the police and the security services can go to communication service providers and internet service providers and ask who was communicating with whom, at what time and where they were at the time. They cannot find out what was communicated without a warrant signed by a handful of senior ministers and in the case of voice calls that have already happened, they are not recorded. To ensure this can be done after crimes have been committed, the service providers are required by secondary legislation to keep records for two years. Following a European Court of Justice decision, the service providers were coming under pressure from civil liberties campaigners not to keep such data and not to provide it to government agencies.
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