Police and Security Services Made 1,119 Errors Intercepting Communications Data in 2015

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

A report from interception of communications commissioner Sir Stanley Burnton shows that the police and security services acquired 761,702 items of communications data -- including details relating to mobile and landline calls and web activities -- in 2015.

Mistakes were made on 1,119 of these instances, representing an increase of 20% from 2014. Sloppy stuff. Of these, 86.6% came down to public authorities, 12.6% to communications service providers and 0.8% to other parties. The vast majority reportedly related to child abuse inquiries.

Overall, Sir Stanley identified 23 “serious errors”, 14 of those being the result of human error and the remaining nine described as “technical system errors”.

Astonishingly, 17 innocent people were wrongfully arrested or had their homes searched by police as a direct consequence of these serious errors. Another six people completely unconnected to investigations were also visited by police, and welfare checks on seven vulnerable people were delayed too.

Communications data was used to identify a journalist’s source without judicial authorisation on four occasions, and there were another 62 reports of errors relating to interception warrants, which give police officers and security services access to the content of calls and messages.

“Both reports contain details of the recommendations that the commissioners have made to continue to improve the way that these powers are used,” said Theresa May, referring to a separate report showing that MI5 made almost twice as many mistakes in 2015 than they did in 2014, often resulting in intrusions of privacy.

“The public authorities who have received these recommendations will be giving careful consideration to them and how to further improve their processes.” [BBC]