Police request people's emails, texts and other communications data every two minutes

Lynsey Barber
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Police data requests vary between forces across the UK (Source: Getty)

Police forces across the UK are requesting access to people's private emails, texts, web searches and phone data every two minutes new research reveals.

More than 700,000 requests were made over the last three years, with the Metropolitan Police making the most - 177,287 - under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).

Of those requests, on average 96 per cent were approved, while London's Metropolitan police requests received the green light from senior officers within the force in 81 per cent of cases between 2012 and 2014, research by privacy group Big Brother Watch reveals.

The report, based on Freedom of Information responses from all but one police force, indicates a disparity between police forces responses to requests for communications data the privacy group said, urging greater transparency. A handful of forces' requests were refused less than one per cent of the time, while another force's refusal rate was as high as 28 per cent.

"If law enforcement persists with calls for greater access, internal procedures will need to be clarified, transparency about the process published and independent judicial approval brought in as part of the authorisation process," the privacy group said.

The government is seeking greater powers to access communications data through the Investigatory Powers Bill, announced by the Conservatives during the Queen's Speech.

Privacy advocates have warned of the increasing government surveillance powers, while the Home Office says the new legislation will help them tackle extremism and fight crime.

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee warned of the so-called "snooper's charter" over the weekend, urging the public to support a bill of rights for people's online lives.

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