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Interception of communications data - overuse by the UK?

A report published on 8th April by Sir Anthony May, the UK Interception of Communications Commissioner, has initiated an investigation into whether there is "significant institutional overuse" of the
A report published on 8th April by Sir Anthony May, the UK Interception of Communications Commissioner, has initiated an investigation into whether there is "significant institutional overuse" of the government's powers to intercept communications data.   The commissioner has the statutory responsibility for ensuring that the interception of communications by public authorities is legal and to report his findings to the Prime Minister each year.

The power to intercept communications arises under Part I of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 and covers the interception of communications content (Chapter I) and the interception of communications data, such as the date and time of transmission (Chapter II).  While the report found that the interception of communications content, which requires a warrant issued by a Secretary of State, is almost always compliant and of a high quality, the number of authorisations and notices for the interception of communications data raised concerns.  


Authorisation for the interception of communications data is given by a senior designated person within the relevant public authority and, in total, the report found 514,608 such authorisations were granted in 2013.  This in the view of the commissioner had "the feel of being too many" and prompted him to ask his inspectors to critically examine these authorisations to ensure they fall within the powers granted.

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