UK Intelligence Agency GCHQ Spied on Thousands of People - BestCyberNews: Online News Presenter in the present world

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UK Intelligence Agency GCHQ Spied on Thousands of People

Britain’s communications intelligence agency GCHQ illegally spied on more than 6,000 people in 24 hours have signed up to a campaign.

On Monday, privacy International launched the campaign in the wake of a court ruling this month that said regulations governing the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk breached human rights law for seven years until last December.

Earlier this month, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) which normally rubber stamps the activities of Britain’s spy agencies, slapped the wrists of GCHQ, censuring the spy agency for breaching human rights law.

Privacy International says the decision by the investigatory powers tribunal allows anyone in the world to ask GCHQ if the US unlawfully shared their individual records with Britain. “Did GCHQ illegally spy on you?Have you ever made a phone call, sent an email, or, you know, used the internet? Of course you have,” says the campaign.

Privacy International is allowing anyone who wants to participate to submit their name, email address, and phone number through a page on its website. 

The group plans to use the details to lodge a case with GCHQ and the court that will seek to discover whether each participant’s emails or phone calls have been covertly obtained by the agency in violation of the privacy and freedom of expression provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

If it is established that any of the communications have been unlawfully collected, the court could force GCHQ to delete them from its vast repositories of intercepted data.

According to the IPT, the British intelligence service acted unlawfully in accessing the personal communications of millions of people, collected by the NSA’s PRISM and UPSTREAM surveillance programs.

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: “We have known for some time that the NSA and GCHQ have been engaged in mass surveillance, but never before could anyone explicitly find out if their phone calls, emails or location histories were unlawfully shared between the US and the UK. The public have a right to know if they were illegally spied on, and GCHQ must come clean on whose records they hold that they should never have had in the first place.”

Privacy International believes that an unlimited number of people could have been affected by the unlawful spying given the mass surveillance capabilities of the NSA and GCHQ and their “share by default” policy covering the information they collect.

The critical court judgment on 6 February marked the first time since the investigatory powers tribunal was set up in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint against any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. 

The tribunal said the regulations covering the NSA’s Prism and Upstream programmes were unlawful because the safeguards that were in place had not been made public. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the course of the legal challenge at the tribunal.

The intelligence agency makes a distinction between intrusive mass surveillance, which it insists it does not undertake, and bulk interception of electronic communciations, which it says is necessary to carry out targeted searches of data in pursuit of terrorist or criminal activity.

GCHQ declined to comment about the Privacy International initiative, and referred inquiries from The Intercept to the British government’s Home Office. A Home Office spokesperson said in emailed statement: “The current regime governing both the intelligence agencies’ external interception and intelligence sharing regimes is lawful and European Court of Human Rights compliant.

Author Venkatesh Yalagandula Follow us Google + and Facebook and Twitter