POLICE forces are shining a light on how they use communications data to locate criminals and solve crimes.
Four forces – Durham, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire – are taking part in a 24-hour ‘Tweetathon’ on Thursday, June 30 to demonstrate how they are using technology to bring offenders to justice.
Under the current Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, forces can complete telecommunications checks for volume crime, such as frauds, harassments, burglaries, robberies or thefts.
Communications data is the ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ of a communication, not what is written or said. It is details of the communication – not the content.
Police forces use it at the early stages of investigations to prove or disprove where a person was, or determine who they were with or who they spoke to. This information is invaluable in proving guilt as well as innocence.
National Policing Lead for Communications Data, ACC Richard Berry said: “The argument is often made that we can have privacy and freedom or security. In the police service, we believe we can have privacy, freedom and security.
“That is a guiding principle under which we act and we work hard to get the balance right.”
In the UK more than 80% of adults go online. And among that 80% are criminals, fraudsters, rapists and child molesters.
While communications data is used to trace the most serious of offences, it is also a vital tool in tackling volume crime. Examples of where is has been used include to place suspect at the scene of an arson, linking possible suspects with malicious calls and placing people at scenes of crime.
It has also been harnessed to tackle social media harassment which, without early intervention, could lead to more serious crime and even murder.
ACC Berry added: “Communications data is one of the most valuable tools we have to investigate crime today and is vital if we are to keep pace in today’s digitalised world.”
The ability to acquire communications data is governed by law and strict codes of practice with built in safeguards, which take full account of the important principles of necessity, proportionality and collateral intrusion.