The real extent to which the UK Government likes to eavesdrop on the British population was revealed for the very first time in late February.
According to figures cited in a Communications Commissioner’s report, 439,054 requests for data relating to phone, email or post were made in the 15 month period between January 2005 and the 31 March 2006. Further to this, the number of warrants – which empower the organisation in question to view the actual content of these communications – totalled 2,407.
These figures, which featured on the front cover of The Times newspaper, immediately prompted critics to invoke the familiar ‘Big Brother’ analogy, with a stream of condemnations of the government’s “creeping contempt” for privacy.
Closer examination of the figures involved suggests that the true breadth of the UK Government’s ‘snooping’ has yet to be exposed. As Dr Chris Pounder, solicitor at legal firm Pinsent Masons Solicitors explains, the true number of individuals impacted by these “requests” is far higher than indicated, by as much as “two or three times”. In fact, he adds, “we have no indication of the final total.”
Business leaders have legitimate concerns over unnecessary interference in their operations. So how successful are these warrants in securing convictions and protecting the nation from criminal activity? “We’ll never know,” says Pounder.