UK top counter-terrorism official blames ‘irresponsible’ social media
LONDON - Police are losing track of terror plots against the UK because “irresponsible” social media companies are refusing to cooperate over suspects, the country’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has warned.
Metropolitan assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said that some suspects have been told when police request their communications data.
He said some companies refuse to provide data to police when legitimate requests are made.
Rowley asserted that as a result there are more "blind spots" than ever before, making it more difficult for police to track potential extremists.
Rowley said the problem was a “growing Achilles' heel” for his officers and warned they would not be able to fully protect the public if it is not addressed.
He told the Royal United Services Institute that some social media companies are cooperative but others have intentionally designed their products so that they will not be able to provide information to authorities.
Rowley did not name any companies that routinely tell users that police have requested their data.
It came as figures showed up to 60 people a month are being radicalised in the UK, predominantly linked to Islamist extremism, and that more than 750 Britons are now feared to have travelled to Syria, mainly to join ISIS.
It emerged earlier this year that Twitter and other social media companies had policies that they would inform users about requests from the police or spy agencies for data on them.
Internet companies have also been accused of allowing terrorists a safe haven through the increasing sophistication of encryption services they provide for their customers.
Rowley said: “We have terrorist cases in the past year where surveillance gaps have meant that where the plot has developed we have been unsighted on the exact details of what they are planning.