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GCHQ mass internet surveillance ruled illegal

A tribunal has stated that the sharing of intelligence by UK agency GCHQ was against the law.


The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that the sharing practices between GCHQ and the US's National Security Agency (NSA) broke human rights laws.

The ruling is hugely significant, as the IPT has never ruled against the intelligence and security services in its 15 year history.

Campaign groups including Privacy International and Liberty had been among those who had complained about the sharing regime, questioning the legality of the operations between the UK and US.

Operations were ruled to have been illegal for at least seven years from 2007 to 2014, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced.

In a statement, it said that up to December 2014 "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" breached articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which refer to the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression, respectively.
Article 8 refers to the right of private and family life, while article 10 is in relation to freedom of expression.

Prism and Upstream were first revealed by The Guardian, after documents were revealed from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

PRISM allowed the NSA access to data handled by internet companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Google and Apple; in one day it was able to collect 444,743 email address books from Yahoo and 82,857 from Facebook.

A GCHQ spokesperson said of the ruling: "We are pleased that the court has once again ruled that the UK's bulk interception regime is fully lawful. It follows the court's clear rejection of accusations of 'mass surveillance' in their December judgment.

"The IPT has, however, found against the government in one small respect in relation to the historic intelligence-sharing legal regime."

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