UK Politics

Labour calls for tougher action against cyber crime

Person typing on a computer keyboard Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Senior Labour figures said technological advances were presenting new problems that must be addressed

Labour has called for tougher action by police and the intelligence services to tackle cyber crimes connected with child pornography and terrorism.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said such action was needed in the face of growing online crime and abuse.

But, in a speech in London, she said it must be accompanied by stronger safeguards to protect privacy.

Ms Cooper argued that the government "cannot keep burying its head in the sand and hoping these issues go away".

Out of date

She said: "In the face of growing online crime and abuse, and the use of online communications by criminals and extremists, the police, intelligence and security agencies need to be able to operate more effectively in this digital world.

"But for them to do so, we also need stronger safeguards and limits to protect our privacy and sustain confidence in their vital work.

"The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date. That means we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of the legal framework to keep up with changing technology.

"Above all we need the government to engage in a serious public debate about these new challenges and the reforms that are needed."

Ms Cooper said the issues involved were "too important" to be ignored because they had implications "for our liberty, our security, the growth of our economy and the health of our democracy".

'Snooper's charter'

Last year, ministers hoped to include new measures on data monitoring in the Queen's Speech.

The plans, which would have allowed the police and security services to track emails and other online communications, were blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Critics of the proposals denounced them as a "snooper's charter".

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said his party would not support any extension of existing laws which would end up with a "record kept of every website you visit and who you communicate with on social media sites".

But senior Labour figures said technological advances were presenting new problems that must be addressed.

Snowden leaks

Ms Cooper said: "Online communication and technology is forcing us to think again about our traditional frameworks for balancing privacy and safety, liberty and security.

"Perhaps most serious of all has been the growth in online child abuse. Last year the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency received 18,887 reports of child abuse - an increase of 14% on the year.

"The police and security services have been under pressure to explain why they did not know more about the murderers of Drummer Lee Rigby, and why more is not being done to disrupt the use of the internet by violent extremists looking to radicalise young people.

"And - with perhaps the widest ramifications of all - former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked hundreds of thousands of US intelligence documents and 58,000 British intelligence documents - raising serious concern about the impact on national security and about the scale of activity of intelligence agencies all at the same time."

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