New law to target criminals' emails, Facebook
Gardaí are to be given new powers to target the use of emails, social media and messaging services by suspected gangland criminals under new laws being brought to Cabinet today.
Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is introducing measures surrounding covert surveillance, which could be in place by the end of the year.
The move will see gardaí given new powers to intercept Facebook and What's App messages, as well as emails, which are increasingly being used by suspected criminals as a mode of communication.
Ms Fitzgerald is seeking to update legislation that stems from the early 1980s and '90s, given the advances in modernday communications such as social media.
"The law does not currently provide a clear legislative basis for the interception of these modern, internet-based forms of communication," said a Government source.
Ms Fitzgerald announced details of the plans in September in response to the escalating Kinihan-Hutch feud.
It's understood the bill will seek to address what is described as the "international face of organised crime" by facilitating co-operation between Ireland and other EU member states.
The legislation, which will be voted upon as early as the autumn, will make specific reference to the need to be conscious of respecting peoples' fundamental rights.
Gardaí have consistently warned that messaging services such as What's App are increasingly being used by criminals because the service is encrypted. This means that only the sender and the receiver can see messages.
But moves to target the use of social media sites and instant messaging services could face a challenge by internet multinationals.