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Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Privacy Group Files Legal Challenge Against UK Government Over Surveillance Programmes


A privacy group has filed legal action against the U.K. government for conducting mass surveillance on citizens across the U.K., using data passed on by the U.S National Security Agency.

Privacy International, a charity in London that works in the area of privacy, today commenced legal action against the U.K government, charging that the spying regime "is seemingly operated outside of the rule of law, lacks any accountability, and is neither necessary nor proportionate."

The claim, filed in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), challenges the UK government on two fronts. Firstly, for the failure to have a publicly accessible legal framework in which communications data of those located in the UK is accessed after obtained and passed on by the US National Security Agency through the Prism programme. Secondly, for the indiscriminate interception and storing of huge amounts of data via tapping undersea fibre optic cables through the Tempora programme.

Reports state that the UK had access to the Prism programme since at least June 2010, and has generated 197 intelligence reports from the system in 2012.

Eric King, Head of Research at Privacy International said:

"One of the underlying tenets of law in a democratic society is the accessibility and foreseeability of a law. If there is no way for citizens to know of the existence, interpretation, or execution of a law, then the law is effectively secret. And secret law is not law. It is a fundamental breach of the social contract if the Government can operate with unrestrained power in such an arbitrary fashion," said Eric King, Head of Research at Privacy International.

"Mass, indiscriminate surveillance of this kind goes against the most basic fundamental human rights to privacy. The scope and scale of this program, which monitors the entire British public and much of the world, cannot be justified as necessary and proportionate," he added.

Additionally, Privacy International is challenging the U.K government's 'Tempora' operation, a programme that reportedly secretly conducts mass surveillance by tapping fibre optic cables, giving the government access to huge amounts of data on both citizens and targeted suspects. Tempora is the name of a core programme within 'Mastering the Internet,' designed to intercept internet traffic that flows through the undersea fibre-optic cables that land in the UK. It is reported that the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters - British intelligence agency) project has, since 2008, steadily been building capability and now claims to provide the "biggest internet access" of any intelligence agency in the Five Eyes alliance of eavesdropping agencies in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. According to the Guardian, in 2011 "more than 39bn events in a 24-hour period" were recorded producing ?larger amounts of metadata collection than the NSA".


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