Two wrongfully arrested after comms data blunders
By Nicole Kobie
Posted on 13 Jul 2012 at 16:49
Flawed communications data led to two people being wrongfully arrested last year, according to a government report.
The report from the Interception of Communications Commissioner showed there were 494,078 requests for communications data in 2011, down 11% from the year before. Those led to 895 errors, up from 640 the year before.
Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, reported that 42% of communications data mistakes related to "incorrect communications address" - notably mistyping telephone numbers or IP addresses.
Regrettably, these errors had very significant consequences for two members of the public who were wrongly detained/accused of crimes as a result of the errors
"Unfortunately in two separate cases where a CSP [communications service provider] disclosed the incorrect data, the mistakes were not realised and action was taken by the police forces on the data received," the report said. "Regrettably, these errors had very significant consequences for two members of the public who were wrongly detained/accused of crimes as a result of the errors."
Half of the overall number of requests for communications data were for subscriber info - who the address belongs to - while a quarter were for traffic data, such as message headers, and 6% was for service use data, such as times of calls.
Most of the requests were from policing and security agencies, while local authorities made 2,130 applications.
The report also revealed 42 errors in the 2,911 intercept warrants issued in 2011 - only 1.4% of the total but a "significant" increase from 27 the year before.
The report comes as as the government works to pass the Communications Data Bill, designed to extend the ability of security services and police to access data on email messages, browsing sessions and other online activity.
"This report shows the dangers of government plans to make phone and internet companies hold even more records on the communication and browsing habits of the whole population," Rachel Robinson, of the campaign group Liberty, told The Guardian. "That two innocent people were wrongly detained and accused of crimes as a result of these blunders should make the government think again about turning us into a nation of suspects rather than citizens."
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