Every 73 seconds, police use snooping powers to access our personal records. Who'll rein them in?

Anti-terror laws are being used to suck in sensitive data without the traditional protections. It’s journalists now. It could be you next

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

At its peak, the Stasi employed one agent for every 165 East Germans. Spying was a labour-intensive business then — you needed to monitor telephone calls, steam open mail, plant a bug, follow suspects on shopping trips and then write reports for the KGB. The advantage was that, human nature being what it is, the Stasi would probably succeed in gathering dirt on all but the most saintly. The drawback: trying to gather files on so many millions could almost bankrupt a government.

How much easier it is nowadays. By interrogating someone’s mobile phone, the police can gather more information than the Stasi could dream of compiling. The modern smartphone contains all the secrets of a life: bank balances, emails to lawyers, texts to lovers. There are apps for gambling addiction, even pregnancy advice. Your phone knows how fast you’ve driven and where you’ve been — not just within a town, but within a room. All this can be used as evidence against you, should the authorities find it useful.

This is why the unfolding scandal of police hacking journalists’ phones matters. Like the media phone-hacking scandal that led to the Leveson inquiry, it offers a glimpse into an abuse of power that doubtless involves far more victims. Phone hacking arose when private detectives realised that new technology allowed them to hack into the voicemails of victims. With police hacking, the bobbies worked out that new technology and new laws let them ask for the phone records of any journalist — they no longer had to go through the tiresome ritual of asking ‘Who’s your source?’ and being told to get stuffed. They could just grab the journalists’ phone records and work it out for themselves.

The first such case that came to light involved Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of the Sun. The Metropolitan Police wanted the name of one of his contacts, and knew better than to ask. So they ordered Vodafone to hand over his phone records. Vodafone obliged: under the law, it has to.

This month, another newspaper found it had been targeted by the police: the Mail on Sunday had spent £150,000 in legal fees to protect its source in the Chris Huhne speeding points saga — which it succeeded in doing. Until Kent Police secretly ordered the phone records of a Mail on Sunday journalist and found the source that way.

All this raises obvious and urgent questions: do we believe that journalists are the only unknowing victims of police hacking? Who else do they target, how often — and why? And how long have they been doing it?

Like many curtailments of British liberties, this started off in the name of fighting terrorism. Since the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) was passed 14 years ago, an average 500,000 pieces of communications data have been demanded by police, intelligence services and the taxman. Ripa was intended as anti-terror legislation but last year, for example, the police made seven requests for every one issued by spies. It suits the police to hide behind the phrase ‘security services’, which has strong connotations of MI5. Spies never talk, so their name is easily used in vain.

It was the police, not the spooks, who wanted the power to imprison suspects without charge for 90 days. And it’s the police who are pressing for extra snooping powers now. Of course, the amount of data they have been able to seize has exploded as phones have turned into handheld computers. That has transformed the nature of police work. If Theresa May were to give police the power to walk into anyone’s home without a warrant from a judge and go through their itemised phone bills, we might say that Britain had become a police state — especially if the public had no means of finding out about, let alone appealing against, wrongful searches.

The only check for police using snooping powers is the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which does not allow complainants to know why they were targeted in the first place. In 14 years it has upheld just 14 complaints — which is why the police seemed so confident about hacking journalists. Last year, they used Ripa to access a piece of confidential information every 73 seconds. Either there are a lot of terrorists in Britain, or there are a lot of policemen who need reining in.

America has been doing some reining in. Four months ago, the United States Supreme Court passed a ruling telling police that they could not look through people’s phones any more than they could rifle through their homes. Invoking the Fourth Amendment (‘the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures’), the court ruled that the time had come for the police to recognise that hacking a mobile phone was an intrusion. ‘The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry information in his hand does not make such information any less worthy of the protection,’ it said.

Indeed, the ruling said that calling such devices phones had become ‘misleading shorthand’. They ‘could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums… A cellphone search would typically expose to the government far more than the most exhaustive search of a house.’

In America, then, the right to privacy is being vigorously defended. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Britain. Our police cannot (legally) hack actual communications, just our telephone records, but only recently they were asking the government to force email companies to keep everyone’s records. This, the so-called ‘snooper’s charter’, has been dropped. But it shows the direction of travel. The government is more interested in expanding the power of the state to snoop than it is in protecting the citizen from snoopers.

But there are politicians who recognise the problem. Keith Vaz, the chair of the home affairs select committee, has asked every police force how many journalists they have spied on. This may lead to a more important question: how may non-journalists have had their itemised phone bills trawled by police for no good reason? And when might it be time for a debate about the protections that citizens need from the alarming alliance of big government and big data?

Lord Falconer, who as Lord Chancellor helped Labour introduce the snooping powers, now believes they are being abused by police. He intended these measures to be available only for urgent inquiries, not for routine investigations. And yet the attitude of the police, he says, is now: ‘Who cares about that?’

The time has come to provide an answer. The police may argue that, without their new powers of espionage, drug dealers would go unpunished and human traffickers would slip the net. That may be true: privacy comes at a cost. It’s time to look at where all this surveillance has led us — and decide whether, in Britain, we believe that the price for privacy is worth paying.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Fraser Nelson and Lord Falconer discuss snooping in this week’s ‘View from 22

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • WFB56

    Isn’t this further proof, if any were needed, that Theresa May and her allegedly “Conservative” cabinet colleagues, are just as authoritarian as Blair / Brown? After all, who introduced the “Snooper’s Charter”?

    Or, are Mrs. May and her colleagues all simply victims of bureaucratic capture?

    • rtj1211

      It’s evidence that they know just how much money they can make through stealing privileged and private information from 30 million mobile phone users.

      This is all about money, nothing else.

      • WFB56

        Well, maybe, tangentially, but in practice, how did individual police secure a monetary benefit from going after the Mail on Sunday?

        Money isn’t the only thing that people value, in the case of the police and many bureaucrats in all Governments, their reward comes from the exercise of power over others and perhaps from their desires for what they see as retribution. This type of behaviour can feed their egos as much as it feeds their pocketbooks.

      • Samson

        It is about one other thing at least. People in the police force or Westminster considering talking to the press about some instance of corruption now know they would struggle to remain anonymous, so will be much less likely to come forward. Reporters who deal with instances of such corruption know they will be targeted by the institutions they’ve f**ked with, so will be less likely to publish.

  • rtj1211

    Perhaps you are now beginning to understand why I gave up using mobile phones 6 years ago??

    In addition, your mobile phone has GPS positioning when switched on which the police can also run riot with. So if you see a police car drive through a petrol station as you are filling up, slow down next to your car, before speeding away having not filled up, entered the shop or anything, you know that they are trailing you.

    • Roger Hudson

      My old 1998 Siemens phone ( Siemens?) keeps working, it does voice and text, nothing else, now an iPod touch is a great PDA but it doesn’t emit any radio waves: have two devices.

    • Pramston123

      I really hope you are joking, where on earth would they get the staff and technology to track all these innocent people? I’ve taken a look at the background of RIPA (which pre-dates the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks and is one of the strictest surveillance controls in the western world,) there is simply no way the police could do what you think they could. It’s amazing how easy this stuff is to find out with the Internet at our fingertips – but than again not half as much fun as sounding off with little or no knowledge!

  • Mike

    When I can get hold of a pay as you go sim card without disclosing my true identity and then use that phone for any illegal purpose including terrorism its perverse, but as we know, this isn’t about anti-terror measures its all about siphoning off personal data for other uses.

    Its the same with anti money laundering laws, the law abiding public have to jump through hoops to open a bank account or even change an address but drug dealers or gun runners just have to buy a run down property, get a utility bill in a fake name from a fake drivers license and they’re set up to launder money to their hearts content.

    Even on criminal checks, its the same mish mash of jobs worths demands that do little to really secure against terrorism but just hassle the law abiding citizen. During the last two weeks I’ve had to get my criminal records (clean I should add) from the UK & Spanish authorities for Visa purposes. ACROW in the UK demand passport picture, a new passport photo, 2 copies of two utility bills plus a 3 page form to fill out as I suppose they have to justify why it costs 80 pounds. Meanwhile in Spain, I was sent from pillar to post before going to a government office in Valencia and getting it there inside 30 minutes by showing my passport and residencia number. Fot the princely sum of €3.66 I got a single sheet stating I hadn’t committed any crimes there either.

    Ever since 9-11 Blair and other leaders have tried to spin the line that normal people wont be affected by government measures but we’ve been snopped on, harassed and generally given a real hard time over ineffective legislation whose purposes were NOT what they claimed. Its really another cash cow for socialist governments to employ out of work dross to reduce the headline unemployment figures and get a sneak preview of personal data for potential tax investigations.

    • hdb

      And why do you have to ask ACPO for this too? It is like having to ask the NUT for your A level results!

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Renewing your Brit passport from a hardship posting has also become more expensive and timing consuming. But at least the Passport Office have finally grasped the absurdity of the endorsement on the back of the photograph. “I certify that this is a true likeness of … what did you say your name was again?”
      Justice of the Peace, serving police officer, university professor, minister of religion … who has known you for five years, when you’ve only been in town for a couple of years.
      Fortunately the Irish priest who drank you under the table in Paddy’s Bar the night before was available to work the magic. Lucky I knew all the words to, “Go on home British soldiers, go on home”. Situational ethics.
      Jack, the Japan Alps Brit
      And now a word from my deranged cyber stalker. George the autistic nutter that the Spectator keeps around for laughs.

      • An Irish priest doesn’t sing Rebel songs, so I call you, as the Irish would say, a load of “godsh*ite”!

        • kievjoy

          I went to a catholic school George, the Irish priest at the church did sing rebel songs, the English one didn’t (knew all the words of Rule Britiania though).

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            So wrong again, George. Kindly ensure that brain is engaged before operating mouth.

          • “Jackthesmilingblack” is a Japanese prat who not only thinks that he were British instead, but he also actively, falsely pretends to be a Briton, yet he just cannot stop slipping up and being caught out, time and time again! Some Japanese idiot spends far too much time on the World-Wide Wait, methinks! The Internet is NO substitute to REAL LIFE, darling!

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            “The Internet is NO substitute to REAL LIFE, darling!”

            Had the wheelchair serviced recently?

          • Joy: Jackthesmilingblack is trolling, you do know that, don’t you?! Foreigners don’t do and don’t understand irony, and the ironic absurdity of singing Irish Rebel songs to get an Irish missionary priest’s countersignature on a BRITISH passport application seems to be completely lost on him, but you?! Are you losing your marbles in your old age, love?!

            Anyway, was your R.C. school (originally for the children of Irish immigrants) in Glasgow, Northern Ireland, Liverpool or Manchester?! I personally would very much doubt that the odd Irish ones in Ampleforth, Musselburgh or the Oratory do that!

          • kievjoy

            My Catholic school was in London. My kids RC school was in Essex. You are the one talking down, obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • Well, London is, well, London; Kilburn is practically another another part of Ireland!

            Flying the Ukrainian flag, and still feel entitled to talk about England: shove your WWIII propaganda somewhere else, you daft Cockney bint!

          • kievjoy

            Don’t like being told you’re wrong do you George. By the way, I wasn’t in Kilburn. I think I’m a bit old to be called a bint. I can see why you have deceased after your name. My children and grandchildren still live in England and some of the younger grandchildren go to RC schools. By the way George, do you live in all the English counties at the same time.

            By the way, WHAT WWIII propaganda.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            As you’re such a fan:

            “Go on home British soldiers, go on home.
            Have you got no fuckin’ homes of your own?
            For eight hundred years we’ve fought you without fear
            And we will fight you for eight hundred more.

            If you stay British soldiers, if you stay
            You will never ever beat the IRA
            For the fourteen men in Derry are the last that you will bury
            So take a tip and leave us while you may.”

            Same again, Father? Double Irish with a Guinness chaser?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Eat shit and die, cripple.

  • Peter Stroud

    Very worrying

  • John Carins

    Why have we become a police state dependent upon surveillance and snooping? Why now are the police so often armed? It’s quite simple, our justice and legal system is not fit for purpose. We are just not tough enough on the causes and perpetrators of crime. Sentences are far too lenient, lack proper rehabilitation and the rights of victims are ignored. Add a great dose of Political Correctness and there you are: police to be effective have to alienate themselves from the society that they are there to protect.

    • William_Brown

      Well said…absolutely correct.

      • John Carins

        Thanks William.

    • Mc

      People keep voting in the politicians that introduce these laws, so we get the politicians and laws we deserve. Not that there are alternative politicians available out there who aren’t interested in maintaining / increasing the police state.

      • John Carins

        I think that people are fed up with their liberal approach. It’s not just with the politicians that this approach is prevalent. The Judiciary are now over politicised. There is change in the air and the questioning of the role of the HRA/ECHR is part of the initial process. Let’s have English laws for English people and feel comfortable in supporting the police rather than undermining them..

        • Colonel Mustard

          I’ll support the police when they cease being a politicised arm of the state and revert to “the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen”.

          It is difficult to envisage that tradition (still part of Peel’s Principles of Policing) when they walk around tooled up in commando gear and their balaclava-wearing goon squads smash down people’s doors at dawn without requesting entry first.

          • John Carins

            Agreed. The vicious cycle has to be broken at some and perhaps many points. Ukip in Scotland have just stopped the arming of police as a regular occurrence. Time to get back to Peel’s principles and a root and branch reappraisal of the crime and justice system. Political toughness will be required.

      • hdb

        And the British people keep reading tabloids who as soon as anything happens from a tragic murder to a terrorist act demand that yet more laws be passed. We need to have things put in perspective. A British person today is far less likely to die in an act of terrorism now than they were in the 70s or 80s when the IRA campaigns were at their height. We need perspective from the media not hysteria.

        • Colonel Mustard

          True enough. But despite that the officialdom, regulation, snooping and powers are being incrementally ramped up by a justice system that serves itself and the state rather than the people.

        • Roger Hudson

          Why does RIPA predate 9/11?

    • Samson

      We could have the lowest reoffending rate in the world and the cops would still want and have guns, along with access to all the phone records they could ever wish for. They’ve proved themselves to be corrupt and inept again and again and again over the years, so why would they ever take a principled stand and refuse some aspect of additional power? PC has a lot to answer for, but not uniformed goons with too much firepower – uniformed goons just like firepower, they always have.

      • John Carins

        I don’t disagree. I detest the thought of armed police. My point is that if you make the crime and justice system better then the need for the police to have these abilities will be harder to justify. Tougher sentences including jail not only acts as a deterrent but keeps the criminals in jail.

  • Tox66

    The police join the rest of the British state in being entirely untrustworthy in their dealings with the public. The sooner we realise this and start to agitate and vote for a new Reform Bill the better.

  • Rik

    To paraphrase “A standing army of police,a sitting army of bureaucrats and a crawling army of politicians” This way tyranny lies

  • Hippograd

    If it helps to make those who matter feel safer, I’m all for it. What are you, Mr Fraser: some kind of anti-securitite?

    Like many curtailments of British liberties, this started off in the name of fighting terrorism.
    In other words, it’s a direct and entirely predictable consequence of mass immigration. We’ve had centuries of trouble with religious and ethnic difference in Ireland, so what were the effects of importing bigger religious and ethnic differences from the Third World likely to be? Still, if Sajid Javid becomes PM, turning the UK into a security-state full of FGM, rape-gangs and Ebola clinics will have been a small price to pay.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Yet another poisonous legacy of the NuLabour years, this one the product of Blair and Blair, PM & Copper.

    • Peter Stroud

      At least Boris got the better of commissioner Blair, now the brighter is in the Lords.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        “now the brighter is in the Lords”
        So you have plobrem with L and L, too.

  • iwilltellyou

    This is ridiculous they do not need access to everyone’s information they should be focusing on muslims

    Please sign and share. Petition to release Marine A is heading for 87,000 signatures-
    please take 1 minute to sign it needs 100,000 to go to Parliament


    • trace9


  • Diggery Whiggery

    If I were to give you the choice of going out in the cold and investigating criminal activity, often in the face of danger, public ingratitude and hostility, or sitting at your desk and investigating whoever you liked with a nice cuppa and a hobnob, which one would you choose?

    Don’t give them the choice.

  • Roger Hudson

    In most cases ‘bad people’ don’t do their ‘bad life stuff’ on the same devices they use for their ‘normal’ life, they have a burner phone, no GPS just a few cheap SIM cards and silly Chinese phones.
    As for RIPA, it was enacted before 9/11 and seemed to be about letting council workers tearing open black bags dumped in the road.
    One question I do have is, how could the police get my bank records if i haven’t told them who i bank with? on a cop show it looks easy but i couldn’t work out how.

  • Muggy Dog

    So Plod are busy salivating over the contents of Fraser’s phone.Is he on the lav or boiling an egg in his kitchen? Meanwhile back in the real world, a murderous, suicidal builder from Latvia enters the country undetected by our security services, and the family of a teenage girl are left to reflect on this, their lives destroyed forever. it’s like when Rommel had his eye on the Pas-de-Calais when he should have been looking towards Normandy

    • Samson

      The press might not be dishing out world-changing stuff every day, but they’re the only ones who ever break the story of politicians or police being corrupt – if you’re a fan of all that corruption going unreported forever then best of luck to you.

      • Muggy Dog

        My point is that if some pissed, washed up hack was about to succeed where stealth technology, drones, and the SAS have failed i.e. engaging with a source that has nailed down the map coordinates of jihadi john’s gold plated palace, then it might be worth GCHQ hacking into (the hacks) phone. Otherwise he should be left well alone.

  • Samson

    “Lord Falconer, who as Lord Chancellor helped Labour introduce the snooping powers, now believes they are being abused by police. He intended these measures to be available only for urgent inquiries, not for routine investigations. And yet the attitude of the police, he says, is now: ‘Who cares about that?’”

    All the catastrophic incidents of police corruption and failure over the years, and he leaves the privacy of England’s citizens down to police discretion and self-discipline. You might just as well employ a paedophile as a child minder. Absolutely insane. Thank god the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems are all on course to stop it… oh, wait.

  • Mc

    “Anti-terror laws are being used to suck in sensitive data without the traditional protections. It’s journalists now. It could be you next”

    It is already us. The UK government has officially already confirmed that if our data sits on a server outside of the UK, they have every “right” to go digging through our data without any restriction. That will already cover the likes of Facebook, Gmail and Skype and may well cover phone providers. As with lots of other things they get up to, I have very little doubt that they’re already freely looking at everyone’s data on UK-based servers – phone records or otherwise.

  • UKSteve
  • Ambientereal

    To protect the citizens the police needs reliable data. The amount and diversity of crimes and criminals skyrocketed the last few years so that I believe they are using every way available. I don´t know how legal or how ethic it is, but it is in it where justice and politics must say a word.

  • MikeF

    The really pernicious politicisation of the police in this country is in the area of supposedly ‘racially aggravated’ offences. When those words get on a chargesheet – when there is even a chance of getting them on a chargesheet – then the police become an ideologically motivated force intent on securing a conviction not an impartial investigative organisation.

  • hdb

    Terrorism is nowhere near as big a threat to our liberties as counter terrorism!

  • CraigET

    Ben Franklin had this figured out more than 200 years ago, if you give people an inch they will always want a mile. And the kind of people who would be willing to work for the police, the government, and the ‘security’ services are definitely the kind of people to take a mile. These jobs attract the worst kind of personality; one that desires instant authority over others.

    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Taking a rather blunt perspective; it occurs to me at least to wonder what is happening to that certain space between the law that is broken by criminals and the law that may or may not be at risk of being broken by the rest of us.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    When Ed Snowden blew the whistle on Stasi NSA, one unintended consequence was disclosure that Verison (the outfit that facilitated cheap international calls) was an NSA front company. So ask yourselves Britisher pals, are those paranoid bastards running the same scam in UK?
    Hate it and leave it Britisher pals. A non-English-speaking region would be favourite.
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

    • JabbaTheCat

      It’s Verizon and the owners are Dow Jones…

  • thomasaikenhead

    “Either there are a lot of terrorists in Britain, or there are a lot of policemen who need reining in.”

    It is fascinating to see how journalists remained silent for decades as civil liberties were eroded in the UK and the police and intelligence and security services ran amok.

    Now that the police and their cronies have turned on the Fourth Estate, due, in no large part, to the ever-increasing revelations of police corruption, incompetence and corruption that have been forced into the public domain, they have belatedly woken up to the threat posed by direct and covert police activities to the rights of British citizens and subjects?

    If Fraser Nelson had ‘done the numbers’ and seen how many police requests for information are actually backed up by any firm evidence of Terrorism ha would have realised long ago that, just as was stated so clearly at the time, the introduction of the powers contained in RIPA has led to widespread and flagrant abuse!

    Given that Migrationwatch estimates that there are up to two million illegal immigrants in the UK the idea that the police and security services spying on the legitimate business of British people has any links to terror and security is simply laughable.

  • JabbaTheCat

    It’s a recurring problem, give the lackeys of the state any power and they will always abuse it…

  • Pramston123

    Journalism in the UK has long been considered in serious decline with a tendency to mislead and sensationalise. Often this has been attributed to the pressures of the modern news cycle as well as a sense that journalists have become simply too lazy to check even the most basic facts. To this we must surely now add dishonesty from the likes of Fraser who must be considered capable enough to have done the five minutes research needed to reveal that what he has written is not true and almost certainly purposely so.

    RIPA is primarily a criminal power and if he were to review the Home Office website he would discover those other things that RIPA can be used for including:

    National Security
    Prevention and detection of crime
    In the interests of the economic well-being of the United
    In the interests of public safety;
    For the purpose of protecting public health;
    For the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or
    other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government
    For the purpose, in an emergency, of preventing death or injury or
    any damage to a person’s physical or mental health, or of mitigating
    any injury or damage to a person’s physical or mental health;

    So the fact is this is not legislation that was ever intended as being used for the purpose primarily of combating terrorism.

    ‘Hacking’ has also become a useful journalistic term as it suggests wrong doing without actually defining what it is. Most people consider hacking to be a kind of interception but there is no suggestion anywhere that interception occurred in this case. Obtaining of call records and subscriber details is not ‘hacking’.

    Hacking is more properly defined as the process of exploiting vulnerabilities in technology to gain unauthorised access to systems or resources. Therefore what the journalists did in listening to people’s answerphone messages could be defined as hacking but what the police did – if properly authorised under RIPA was not. Only if it turns out they went beyond the legislation could it be called hacking, this may be the case but it has not been shown to be the case other than by journalists suggesting a ‘terrorism’ related power has been used against them. Which again is simply not true – and they know that full well.

    Fraser also entirely misrepresents the data available to investigators by suggesting everything on a telephone (i.e. your entire life) can be accessed remotely in this way. Just another example of his general ignorance or dishonesty – there is no suggestion that anything other than call data and subscriber details were obtained in the course of a criminal investigation. This whole scandal is based on the interests of journalists and their desire to be considered above the law – if you think it is anything else at least avail yourself of the known facts and don’t fall into the trap of believing the drivel you are fed by the ignorant or corrupt.

  • Mark Dubbery

    The Americans may in general be better at protecting individual liberty but their police are not necessarily any better behaved in any individual case:

  • Roger Hudson

    I knew the game was up (freedom, that is) when I saw the Police Act 1998 has a clause that can make secret breaking into a home ‘not unlawful’ if ‘authorised’. Hmmmm!

  • Retired Nurse

    Oddly enough, the police and the ministry of justice refused to assist someone I know when their father was killed in hospital in 2008…the notes were not forthcoming for 18 months, and when they finally obtained them, there was a ‘record’ of a telephone conversation from the hospital (in which they were said to have consented to the withdrawal of treatment) – the call was entirely fabricated. RIPA data would have proved no call was ever made,and skullduggery by a State Agent, but the Police and Coroner’s unit simply couldnt be arsed to get it for them!

  • mikewaller

    Discovering the name of a policeman who was conspiring to bring down a government minister and the name of a judge who was breaking all the rules seem to me amble justifications for obtaining phone records. It is typical of journalistic special pleading that these are the examples used. For ordinary people like me to get excited, please give us a few examples where the public interest is far less obvious.

  • James Clark

    What an excellent and timely piece….

  • Roger Hudson

    The greatest safety we have is that there is just too much data for anything but essential observation of our various activities. I always had doubts about ‘1984’ as there wouldn’t be enough ‘watchers’, apparently the STASI had a big data problem as well. Moderate use of pay-as-you-go texts, coded, should slip right past snoopers .
    Remember, a code and a cypher are not the same.