Three of the four largest UK mobile service providers - Three, Vodafone and EE - have made customers’ call records available to the Police.
According to UK newspaper The Guardian, forces across the country need only press their mouse button to have access to the information via automated systems.
This leaves O2 as the only major network that requires staff to review and approve all Police data requests first.
“We have a request management system with which the law enforcement agencies can make their requests to us,” claimed the mobile operator.
“All O2 responses are validated by the disclosure team to ensure that each request is lawful and the data provided to commensurate with the request,” it added.
Meanwhile, those operators who freely provide automated information to the Police claim that the number of requests received for certain data are so overwhelming that automation is the only possibility.
Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), mobile network providers are required by law to store a year’s worth of call records of all their customers, which Police and other agencies can then access without warrant.
“The overwhelming majority of the RIPA notices we receive are processed automatically in accordance with the strict framework set out by RIPA and underpinned by the code of practice,” claimed Vodafone.
“Even with a manual process, we cannot look behind the demand to determine whether it is properly authorised,” it added.
Both Three and EE took a similar stance, with the former claiming it “does no more or less than is required or allowed under the established legal framework.”
The news has sparked security and privacy concerns and campaigners, similarly to the way July’s “Snooper’s Bill” did.
Also known as the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, the Snooper’s Bill would allow emergency services access to phone and Internet records, but it has yet to come into law.
“We urgently need clarity on just how unquestioning the relationship between telecommunications companies and law enforcement has become,” claimed Eric King, deputy director of privacy campaigning group Privacy International.
“It’s crucial that each individual warrant for communications data is independently reviews by the companies who receive them and challenged where appropriate to ensure the privacy of their customers is not being inappropriately invaded,” he added.