In the first live interview ever given by a serving leader in the UK’s secret service, Parker told the BBC that it is becoming more difficult to obtain information online and Internet companies have an “ethical responsibility” to alert agencies to potential threats.
However, the MI5 boss claims this is not about “browsing the lives” of the public and any new legislation was a matter for “Parliament to decide.”
“The shape of threat we face today has changed in some ways…because of the Internet and the way terrorists use social media…and the way we all live our lives using our smartphones in our pockets, the terrorists are doing the same,” Parker claimed.
“They using secure apps and Internet communication to try to broadcast their message and to incite and direct terrorism amongst people who live here who are prepared to listen to their message,” he added.
In response to this, MI5 is attempting to monitor those who many using social media and other modern technology to incite terror acts, while Parliament is drawing up legislation covering powers for carrying out electronic surveillance.
During the interview, Parker claimed that encryption has become a “serious issue” where Police and other intelligence agencies “can no longer obtain under proper legal warrant the communication of people they believe to be terrorists.”
“If we’re to find and stop the people who mean us harm MI5 and others need to be able to navigate the Internet to find terrorist communication, we need to be able to use datasets so we can join the dots to be able to find and stop the terrorists who mean us harm before they’re able to bring their plots to fruition,” he said.
While there has been success in preventing many attacks in Britain recently, the fast, changing pace of technology means that it is becoming harder to do this.
According to the MI5 boss, terrorism is a threat that is continuing to grow in the UK, particularly with events such as those in Syria and attempted attacks are at the highest level he has seen in his career of over 30 years.
“The terrorism threat is the most serious threat that Britain faces in security terms currently, and it takes up most of the work of MI5 and our partner agencies,” claimed Parker.
“It’s set currently at the level of severe which means that attacks are highly likely. What that actually means in practice and over the past year has been a growing threat that the Prime Minister has referred to, in which we’ve seen six attempts at terrorism in this country just in the last 12 months,” he added.