Police forces across Blighty made more than 700,000 communications data access requests in the space of three years, responses to an FOI request from Big Brother Watch have revealed.
Privacy worrywarts will be alarmed by the level of email and phone snooping demands that have been submitted by cop shops across the country, given that – on average – 96 per cent of those requests were waved through, according to the campaign group's report (PDF).
The figures also highlighted the fact that police forces – which made a total of 733,237 comms data requests between January 2012 and December 2014 – demanded access to those records every two minutes.
Only one in 25 (4 per cent) such requests were thrown out, the report noted.
However, there was a clear imbalance between internal approval systems. For example, Police Scotland had just 1.7 per cent of its 62,075 requests rejected, while the Met saw 18 per cent of its 177,287 data access demands junked.
Big Brother Watch chief exec Renate Samson said:
With police forces making over 730,000 requests for communications data in the past three years, political mutterings of diminishing access to our communications are clearly overstated.
If greater access to our communications, clearer internal procedures is to be granted, increased transparency and independent judicial approval should be introduced as standard.
Until these safeguards exist, the public will have little confidence that the powers to access their communications are being used only when it is truly necessary and proportionate.
The findings come at an awkward time for the freshly-installed Tory government, after it confirmed its latest Snoopers' Charter bid to massively ramp up the surveillance of Brits' online activity with the unveiling of the Investigatory Powers Bill during last week's Queen's Speech. ®