LONDON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- While making a public push to "modernize" laws to allow the monitoring of people's online activity and mobile device data, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that TV crime dramas illustrated the government’s need to gather private information from citizens.
A “politically contentious" communications data bill in England that would have allowed the government to access details about mobile calls and phone services like Skype was dropped last year.
"In the most serious crimes [such as] child abduction communications data ... is absolutely vital. I love watching, as I probably should stop telling people, crime dramas on the television," Cameron said. "There's hardly a crime drama where a crime is solved without using the data of a mobile communications device.”
Cameron did admit that the surveillance program that was revealed by NSA contractor Edward Snowden "raised questions about who has access to my data and why,” but indicated he hoped people realized that intelligence services were trying to keep people safe.
"Over time we are going to have modernize the legislative framework and practice when it comes to dealing with communications data,” Cameron said. "It's obviously politically quite a contentious topic. I'm not sure we'll make progress on it in the coming months in terms of legislation -- there may be some things short of legislation which we can do."
The deputy director of Big Brother Watch, Emma Carr, indicated her organization would be open to negotiating about updating the laws.
"It is clear that the public have no idea about the true scale of surveillance already going on and that's why the entire legal framework for surveillance needs reviewing and reforming wholesale,” Carr said. "If the prime minister wants to update the law, this is absolutely necessary and we would welcome the opportunity to have that debate."