Reports into NSA spying in the US by whistleblower Edwrad Snowden didn’t just reveal the activities of agencies spying on internet users in America – it also came out that the UK’s spying agency which handles cyber warfare, GCHQ, was also involved in the clandestine examination of data collected from internet users.
Not only were GCHQ responsible for snooping into the information on Google, Facebook and Twitter, but also the agency got their hands on data that had been collected by the NSA’s PRISM and UPSTREAM programs. Data from both of the spying efforts was pipelined to the UK from American spies.
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In response to the findings, independent court the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has now decided to do a u-turn of their previous ruling in December that the practice was lawful. Now the IPT says that GCHQ were indeed unlawful in their spying on UK citizens, publishing an official second ruling in the last week.
Activists from Liberty, Privacy International, Amnesty International and Bytes for All came together to lobby the court to change their decision, as even more Snowden documents have been leaked and the public have become much more aware of the potential spying on their daily internet usage.
“For far too long, intelligence agencies like GCHQ and NSA have acted like they are above the law. Today’s decision confirms to the public what many have said all along – over the past decade, GCHQ and the NSA have been engaged in an illegal mass surveillance sharing programme that has affected millions of people around the world.
– Eric King, deputy director, Privacy International
A statement on the IPT’s website read that “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.
Article 8 and 10 of the human rights conventions cover personal freedom, private life and family life. In other words, the contravening of such articles does mean that the snooping was a violation of human rights laws.
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In the aftermath of the ruling, cthe group of campaigners who lobbied the IPT must now seek clarification that the data relating to UK citizens was collected by the US NSA agency. Once it’s confirmed that American services were involved, channels may be opened for people to request their data to be removed from GCHQ’s records.
The ruling and successful lobbying of the IPT is a step in the right direction – citizens of the EU have successfully managed to exercise the human rights afforded by the union, in direct opposition to unlawful secret efforts by a foreign power, the United States. The UK public isn’t going to let their secrets fall into the hands of any security agency, here or abroad, without a fight.
Source: IPT Document (pdf)