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Saturday, 21st August 2010

UK: Telephone tapping/interception (and mail-opening figures) 1937-2009

Telephone tapping/interception (and mail-opening figures) 1937-2009
Source: Statewatch

This Statewatch Observatory covers: Official reports (now the Interception of Communications Commissioner) on telephone-tapping 1937-2009...

The report for 2009 shows that in England, Wales and Scotland the number of warrants issued and the number of "modifications" (where previously a new warrant would have had to be issued) rose slightly from 7,466 to 7,602.

During the Second World War the highest yearly total for warrants issued was 1,682. This figure, despite the Cold War and bombings by the Provisional IRA, was not surpassed until 1998 (1,763). Since 1997 the number of annual warrants (and modifications) issued has risen from 1,712 to 7,466 (2008).

The Interception Commissioner's report also covers access to "communications data" which refers to data concerning a phone-call, e-mail, fax, mobile phone-call (and location) and internet usage (which also reveals the "content" of the "communication"). Not to be confused surveillance warrants coming under the Chief Surveillance Commissioner.

The Interception Commissioner lists the number of requests for access to communications data (ie: traffic data) under RIPA Part I Chapter II from service providers. Much public attention, quite rightly, has focussed on the use by local authorities to obtain communications data however, the bulk of the requests are made by the police, Special Branch and MI5. In his 2007 report the Commissioner records: "I am pleased to say that more and more police forces are introducing automatic systems for the management of communications data requests" (emphasis added) and in the 2009 report that: "Of all the intelligence agencies the Security Service is the largest user of communications data and it has a fully automated system to manage its requirements." (emphasis added)
So far five sets of figures for requests for access to communications data from "communications service providers and internet service providers" have been put on record....

No figures are given for subsequent requests for access to the "content" of communications.


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