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New study shows UK Police forces requested communications data over 700,000 times

New research indicates that Police forces across the UK have requested access to communications data 700,000 times in the past three years and the majority of these requests were granted.

Privacy group Big Brother Watch conducted the study by sending Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all local authorities in January – of which, 92 per cent responded.

The FOI requests asked the council in question to explain the number of times its Police force requested access to communications data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the number of times such a request was rejected internally from January 2012 to January 2015.

A total of 733,237 requests were made by the responding organisations, the equivalent of 670 requests a day or 28 requests every hour.

Just 54,164 requests were rejected, whilst 679,072 were accepted and 26 of Police forces showed an increased number of requests, while 11 showed falling numbers.

On average, 96 per cent of all requests are internally approved with an average of just 4 per cent being refused, which Big Brother Watch claims demonstrates a disparity amongst Police forces on what is considered necessary and proportionate for a request for communications data.

The Metropolitan Police made the most requests for communications data, followed by the West Midlands Police and Police Scotland.

The Police forces with the lowest number of refusals for such information are Cheshire, Warwickshire and Cleveland Police.

Meanwhile, the highest number of refusals come from Essex, Kent and the Metropolitan Police.

“Despite persistent claims that the Police’s access to Communications Data is diminishing, this report shows that the Police are continuing to access vast amounts of data on citizens,” the report claims.

“Claims of a 25 per cent capability gap – the gap between the amount of Communications Data created and the ability for the Police to access it – are therefore clearly overstated,” it adds.

Police To Have More Access To Communications Data

The news follows on from last week, when the Queen opened the new Parliament for the first time and revealed the Snooper’s Charter, which would increase surveillance abilities, was back on the agenda.

While the government claims such powers are necessary to fight crime and terrorism, organisations such as Big Brother Watch believe it is a huge breach of human rights.