The UK’s spy agencies have come under fire this week for breaking privacy rules in a new report from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT).
The IPT said that large amounts of data on UK citizens was collected without adequate oversight.
Privacy International a UK based organisation made the complaint after revelations from Edward Snowden showed that UK spy agencies were carrying out mass surveillance by vacuuming up large portions of data transmitted throughout the UK.
The complaint focuses on GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 which the ruling by the IPT states that some of the data collection methods used were not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Although the IPT have given the major spy agencies a slap on the wrist they also stated that last year proper supervision was put in place to ensure that similar privacy breaches could not take place again in the future.
Private International said the ruling was a “highly significant judgement”. The ECHR Article 8 states that European citizens have the right to privacy and any actions carried out against personal data should be done so in a lawful manner.
It appears that data collection was being carried out under the older Telecommunications Act 1984 which is outdated and not fit for purpose in the modern world. Graham Smith of London law firm Bird & Bird said that what spy agencies do obviously must be secret but that laws surrounding their actions and what they can do shouldn’t be.
A new policy came into effect in February 2015 covering how data collection should take place lawfully which essentially should prevent the same issues from arising again in future.
The policy included guidelines on how on how any data collected should be managed, acquired and destroyed. Before the introduction of the new guidelines the IPT found that methods used were not compatible with European law and were “unlawful”.
The UK Home Office dismissed the report choosing to comment on the fact they were pleased that the tribunal found current methods were lawful and ignoring the fact previous methods were not.
They went on to say that the government was “committed” to stronger safeguards when it comes to bulk data collection.
Users concerned about bulk data collection in the UK can make use of a VPN service to tunnel out to another country and encrypt their data putting it at further reach from UK security services and government bulk data collection.