The article referred to in the Deputy's question is another manifestation of allegations about certain surveillance programmes operated by foreign intelligence services. While I, of course, fully understand the concerns which these revelations have given rise to, there is no information available to me to support the contention referred to.
We have, in this country, robust data protection legislation to protect individuals against unwarranted invasion into their privacy.
Access to call content is governed by the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 and may only take place under Ministerial warrant.
Access to retained data in this jurisdiction is governed by the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. Under the Act access may only be granted following a request to the particular mobile phone company or internet provider in connection with the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of a serious offence, the safeguarding of the security of the State or the saving of human life.
The operation of both Acts is subject to judicial oversight and there is a complaints procedure which individuals can avail of if there is a concern that the Acts have been breached in relation to their calls or their data.
There are, therefore, lawful and legitimate reasons for law enforcement and other authorities to require access to certain data. Not least of these reasons is the need to protect our citizens from terrorist threats.
In doing so, however, it is necessary to ensure that the information used is properly obtained and subject to appropriate safeguards. The importance of protecting individual rights to privacy and ensuring respect for individual human rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights is well recognised.