…But since February, it has been legal…
UK Intelligence agencies have been found to have broken privacy rules over the large scale bulk collection of its own citizens data without appropriate legal oversight, the UK’s own Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled.
The IPT declared in their report that the domestic security agencies not only operated unlawfully but also breached basic domestic human rights laws by collecting large amounts of Internet Service Provider communications traffic, and by also maintaining vast databases of information of individual UK citizens for over 15 years.
The 70 page long ruling states that data collection by MI5, MI6, and GCHQ did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, and as such was therefore illegal.
The IPT began their investigation back in 2015 after official complaints were registered against the intelligence agencies by Privacy International.
According to GCHQ, the retention of such data is “vital for identifying and developing intelligence targets.”
According to article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights however, All European citizens have the right to a private life and any interference with personal data or information has to be both lawful and necessary.
In November of 2015, then Home Secretary (and now Prime Minister) Theresa May revealed that British intelligence agencies had been intercepting bulk communication data of its own citizens for years.
The data collected included visited websites, GPS locations, email metadata, and individual financial and communication activities.
However, the ruling while welcomed by Privacy International as “highly significant judgement,” but that “the authorisation and oversight regime that was left wanting pre-2015 remains deeply inadequate.”
And that’s because despite the IPT findings of illegality, official UK government policy changed in February this year. Now, the collection of data includes official guidelines and offers more disclosure about what can and can’t be collected from individuals. Crucially though, the actual collection of data, the manner in which it is collected, and the underlying covertness of UK intelligence agencies hasn’t changed…
Yes, that’s right, it’s now legal for the UK to spy on its own people
Essentially, the UK government have simply changed the wording on the packaging, which in real terms means that nothing has changed. The UK spy agencies can carry on as they were, and from February this year, it’s all become legal all of a sudden.
Phew. (But not really.)