New figures have revealed that Lincolnshire Police made more than 2,400 requests to view communications data in a three-year period.
According to a report produced by Big Brother Watch, a campaign group for civil liberties, the force made 2,418 applications for data from 2012 to 2014, amounting to more than two requests every day.
Of these, 2,341 (96.8%) were approved under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Communications data includes the ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ but not the actual content of personal texts, emails, phone calls and web searches.
Lincolnshire Police said in a statement that it would request communications data for “a broad range of offences where it will help to prove or disprove an offence or further an investigation,” citing harassment cases as a potential example of how it would be used in practice.
The number of requests made by the force was lower than the national average, with only Cambridgeshire Police making fewer applications in the same period.
New laws proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May to give the police greater powers to monitor internet and phone use were included in last month’s Queen’s Speech.
The draft Communications Data Bill, described as a Snoopers’ Charter by its critics, would see information about who people call, text, tweet, what games they play, when they post on social networks and who they send web mails to logged for 12 months.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Sara Thornton said: “Crime is increasingly being committed online or arranged through digital communications, whether by fraudsters, rapists, child abusers or terrorists. At the same time, our access to communications data is rapidly degrading and it is important that the public are aware of the impact this is having.
“In recent years, more blind spots have developed where police cannot effectively trace criminal activity.
“Proposed legislative changes to strengthen our access to communications data will help us to keep up with rapid changes in technology and emerging threats. We simply do not have the coverage which we had five years ago.”
Big Brother Watch is now calling for forces to be required to publish transparency reports detailing how requests are approved, the number of individuals affected and the type of crime communications data is used for.
It also recommended a standardised procedure for the access of communications data, which all forces, telecommunications and internet service providers must adhere to, and judicial involvement as a final step in the approval process.
The group added: “Should the government adopt these recommendations, the general public will be better informed about how their communications can be obtained, analysed and used.
“It will also provide the much needed clarity on how police and other organisations work with the technology companies to access this information.”