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Internet industry experts today said suggestions that the government should expand its monitoring of online content could breach personal privacy rights.
A report looking at what intelligence there was of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers before his murder has made a number of recommendations of social media companies, including installing an “automatic trigger” to identify potential terrorist activity and allow authorities to pursue it.
But experts say this is the equivalent of asking telephone companies to listen to phone calls, or the post office to read mail.
Executive director of internet rights organisation Open Right Group, Jim Killock, said:
One of Lee Rigby's killers had 'almost no online presence at all', his brother has said in the wake of calls for tighter web surveillance.
Jeremiah Adebolajo said MI5 knew his brother Michael had 'little in the way of a digital footprint' and had no social media account or regular phone number.
Speaking in the wake of a report into what intelligence services knew about Michael, he said: "My brother was constantly and closely monitored by the security services. He had almost no online presence at all, a fact that even caused the security services to request me to keep a closer eye on him."
He called moves by the Government to expand monitoring of people's internet activities "sinister" and dismissed claims that closer monitoring of online activities would prevent 'lone wolf' attacks.
Here are the key findings of a report by the Intelligence and Security Committee into what prior knowledge intelligence and security services had of Lee Rigby's killers ahead of his murder.
- Lee Rigby's killers Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo appeared in seven different agency investigations as low-level subjects of interest before they murdered the soldier.
- There were errors in agency operations, where processes were not followed, decisions not recorded or delays encountered
- The report concluded that despite the errors MI5, MI6 and GCHQ could not have prevented the murder of Fusilier Rigby
- Agencies had no knowledge of an online exchange between Adebowale and an overseas extremist in 2012 in which he reveals he intended to murder a soldier as it was not reported by a US web firm
- Report says the unnamed web firm 'however unintentionally' provided a 'safe haven' for terrorists
- 'Highly unlikely' agencies could have discovered the exchange before the attack
- 'Significant possibility' MI5 could have prevented the murder of Lee Rigby if the exchange had been reported
Internet firms need to do more to meet their "social responsibility" to act to prevent their networks being used for terrorist purposes, the Prime Minister has said.
It comes after a report by the Intelligence and Security Committee labelled a US web firm a "safe haven for terrorists" after an online exchange by one of Lee Rigby's killers was discovered in which he reveals he intended to murder a soldier.
Mr Cameron said: "The Committee is clear and I agree that they have serious concerns about the approach of a number of communication service providers based overseas."
He added: "We will continue to do everything we can. But crucially we expect the internet companies to do all they can too.
"Their networks are being used to plot murder and mayhem. It is their social responsibility to act on this and we expect them to live up to that responsibility."
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced an extra £130 million will be given to security and intelligence agencies.
Mr Cameron said the money would be used to "enhance our ability to monitor and disrupt these self-starting terrorists".
It comes in the wake of a report by the Intelligence and Security Committee into actions by agencies in the lead up to soldier Lee Rigby's death.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said lessons can be learned from a report into actions taken by intelligence agencies in the lead up to soldier Lee Rigby's murder.
Mr Cameron said: "There are lessons to be learned and things that need to change."
The report, by the Intelligence and Security Committee, concluded intelligence agencies could not have prevented the murder of Rigby despite his killers featuring in a total of seven error-filled operations before the attack.
The Intelligence and Security Committee raised concerns about the lack of monitoring by communication service providers and warned it left the British public open to "a higher level of threat".
The Committee said none of the providers it approached as part of its investigations into agency operations before the death of soldier Lee Rigby monitored and reviewed suspicious content on their systems.
Also none of the providers regarded themselves as compelled to comply with UK warrants.
"This is of very serious concern: the capability of the agencies to access the communications of their targets is essential to their ability to detect and prevent terrorist threats in the UK," the report said.
It said the UK Government was taking action on the issues but warned: "Until it is resolved the British public are exposed to a higher level of threat."
The Intelligence and Security Committee was asked whether the public will learn whether MI5 attempted recruit Michael Adebolajo in Kenya.
Committee chair Sir Malcolm Rifkind said that information was not in the public report.
MI5 will neither confirm nor deny the suggestion as it would be damaging to national security, the committee said.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the US-based internet company which might have prevented the murder of Lee Rigby only provided the information to GCHQ on the condition of confidentiality and so it will not be named.
Latest ITV News reports
Lee Rigby's stepdad and sister criticised social media companies for failing to notify the authorities of users plotting a terror attack.
ITV's UK Editor Rohit Kachroo looks at the findings of a report into the extent of intelligence agencies' knowledge of Lee Rigby's killers