Targeted data collection could have prevented Paris terrorist attacks

A more targeted approach to data collection could have helped French authorities prevent the Paris attacks last year, according to former NSA technical director William Binney.

Binney told a parliamentary committee evaluating the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, however, that bulk data collection could leave analysts with too much information to carry out effective assessments.

The bill would increase the data collection powers of UK intelligence services, making it a legal requirement for all Internet service providers and telephone operators to maintain extensive customer records for at least 12 months. However, the bill has been criticised as both ineffective and an invasion of privacy. In fact, individuals close to Denmark’s own data collection programme said that mass interception has not yielded particularly useful results.

Binney added that ineffective approaches to data collection can have serious ramifications – as proved the case with the terrorist atrocities in Paris last November.

“They could have got all that data up front with a targeted approach, and they could have had the opportunity to stop them before the attack,” he said. “The result is a dysfunctional analyst, no prediction of intention of capabilities and no stopping of any attacks. People die.”

It has been claimed by some that the UK government is taking advantage of increased terrorism fears to push through its data collection scheme. There is also a lack of clear reasoning behind some of the clauses in the Investigatory Powers Bill, including why data storage is capped at 12 months as opposed to any other period of time.

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