Michael Ellis is MP for Northampton North. Follow Michael on Twitter.
An article this week on ConHome from Emma Carr of Big Brother Watch asserted that the Communications Data Bill was ‘ill thought out legislation’. As a member of the cross-party Joint Committee which spent almost six months scrutinising the Draft Bill – and which unanimously agreed the need for updated legislation – I strongly disagree.
This legislation is not, as Emma Carr and others have suggested, about "snooping" on the public. The use of communication records – the "who", "when" and "where" of a communication, but not the actual content of them – forms part of almost every serious organised crime investigation. It is a crucial tool in the fight against paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals.
The fact is, however, that the increasing use of smartphones and the internet is eroding this capability. As criminals adapt to a digital age, our law enforcement agencies must keep up – and they must have the tools they need to respond and keep us safe in these dangerous times. The formal requests they make nowadays to mobile and internet service providers for details about suspects’ communications are increasingly met with reports that they have growing gaps in their records. The details of communications made via the internet simply aren’t retained in a way which allows connections to be matched easily. A call or text message sent by a mobile network can be tracked, but if the same call or message is sent by a 3G network or WiFi, this information simply isn't available readily – if at all.