PCC Martin Surl calls for fresh debate on 'snoopers charter'
GLOUCESTERSHIRE PCC Martin Surl has called on the Government to restart the debate on the so-called 'snoopers charter'.
The controversial Draft Communications Data Bill would have enabled police to gather information from a computer user's internet activity to help catch terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals.
It was put forward by Home Secretary Theresa May with a view to becoming law in 2014 but was dropped earlier this year after Lib Dem opposition.
Now Mr Surl - the county's Police and Crime Commissioner - wants to reopen the debate.
He has managed to gain the support of 20 of the UK's other 40 PCCs, who, along with Mr Surl, have signed a letter to the Secretary of State declaring their support for the bill.
"It is vitally important that legislation keeps pace with developments in technology and the ever growing variety of ways in which people can communicate with one another," said Mr Surl, a former senior police officer who worked on the creation of the national policing counter terrorism network in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings.
"The police are legally prohibited from identifying anyone who has sent an email, instant message or other internet-based services because service providers do not retain all of the relevant data.
"Those of my fellow PCCs who have signed the letter to Mrs May and I believe this inability is inhibiting operations in counter terrorism and against organised crime."
At present, communication firms only retain data about who emails are sent to and who customers call.
The bill would make internet service providers and mobile operators log much more data including instant messaging and Skype contacts, games being played and posts on social networks.
In their letter, the PCCs said: “We believe it is an integral part of the armoury necessary to ensure future safety of citizens and a necessary tool to protect, conditional on stringent safeguards on data security and civil liberties, and should be reviewed on a regular basis.
"When it was being debated, the bill was heavily criticised by privacy and civil liberties campaigners, who branded it a ‘snoopers charter’.
Speaking to the SNJ this week, Emma Carr, deputy director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "This letter is remarkably misguided when we already know that the police make thousands of requests every year for information about the use of online services.
"Last year British police received more data from Skype than any other country, along with data from services like Facebook and Google related to thousands of people.
"It is laughable to claim our intelligence agencies do not have access to information online and it is absolutely right that there are things our intelligence agencies can do that we would not allow the police to do."
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