Snooping powers of the UK Government should be widened to cover social media sites.
The former head of the UK’s intelligence gathering centre GCHQ, Sir David Ormand has put forward the suggestion.
Websites like Twitter and Facebook are being used by criminals, terrorists and pedophiles as a “secret space” in which to communicate, according to Sir David.
He added that those responsible for protecting society need to use up-to-date technology to keep suspects under surveillance.
However, the former Intelligence officer stressed individual accounts should only be ‘hacked’ under special circumstances.
Government plans are underway to force internet service providers to keep much closer tabs on email traffic – including when and where they are sent and by whom. Details are currently being finalized in the upcoming Communications Capabilities Development Programme.
Sir David called for a Green Paper on monitoring social media sites, and for a partnership with private industry to develop analytical tools to monitor developments.
“Social media is how people are talking to each other,” he said, as he launched a report by Demos, the think tank. There have been reports that Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden are using social media to communicate, and Mr Omand said that in such circumstances the authorities need to be able to gain access to private accounts.
However, critics to the report say that there is no need to extend the Government’s snooping capabilities; that the state already has access to a mass of stored information about suspected bombers or pedophiles. The police or the security services can obtain warrants to tap phones, follow individuals, enter their homes and seize their computers.