Tuesday 12 December 2017

State to extend spying to Facebook

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Department of Justice will press ahead with plans to extend garda surveillance to the internet, despite concerns over safeguards in place to protect citizens.

Officials are working on proposals that would extend the interception regime which applies to telephones to internet communications including social media - including services like Facebook.

The Department of Justice says the measure is needed to combat organised crime and terrorism.

However, a legal expert who has raised concern about the current system designed to safeguard the public against phone tapping has warned against extending the law without reforming these arrangements.

UCD law lecturer Dr TJ McIntyre has argued that Irish phone tapping law and its implementation fails to meet international standards.

He cited the current controversy over Garda phone tapping and said: "Fundamental reform is required as a matter of urgency, and certainly before the system is extended even further."

Dr McIntyre has criticised the current oversight system which sees a High Court judge produce an annual report on the operation of Garda phone tapping. This is submitted to the Government.

He said the reports tended to be brief and offered little if any detail on the extent of tapping taking place.

A Department of Justice spokesman said the move to extend the interception legislation to cover the internet was "considered essential" due to the need to deal with the "real threats" of organised crime and terrorism.

He said any proposed legislation would be "fully debated by the Oireachtas" and it was "recognised the right balance has to be achieved" between an individual's right to privacy and "the need to prevent people becoming the victims of serious crime".

He insisted there were "very strong safeguards" to ensure the current interceptions system was "operated properly". The involvement of a High Court judge in oversight of the system was "a very significant safeguard".

Irish Independent

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