The case for regulating metadata collection

If reports are to be believed, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has had “direct access” to systems run by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple. While all the companies named have used similar words to deny those claims, the alleged scale of the surveillance, its sophistication and the lack of independent oversight are still very alarming.

All of the above points to a worrying breakdown in procedures that have been around for decades – for good reason – in the area of lawful interception.

Most countries have some form of legislation governing lawful interception of communications. If an organisation offers some form of publicly-available communications service, it may be obliged to deliver the content of communications or information about that communication to the relevant law enforcement or intelligence agency.