Data collection by GCHQ is not illegal, rules Investigatory Powers Tribunal

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled that GCHQ is not acting within an unlawful regime or seeking to carry out ‘mass’ or ‘bulk’ surveillance.

The case had been brought against the intelligence agency by organisations and pressure groups such as Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International, following the leaks of stolen information by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

Privacy International claimed that documents leaked by Snowden show that the GCH and NSA have programmes that allow agents to listen via microphones, watch through webcams and discover detailed web browsing histories.

However, it was ruled that governing the interception of communications under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 are lawful and compliant with Articles 8 (right to privacy) and 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

In its judgement, the IPT said: “We are entirely clear that the Respondents are not seeking, nor asserting that the system entitles them to seek to carry out what has been described as ‘mass’ or ‘bulk’ surveillance”.

It added: “The Snowden revelations in particular have led to the impression, voiced in some corners, that the law in some way permits the intelligence services carte blanche to do what they will. We are satisfied that this is not the case.”

The pressure groups have said that they will appeal the ruling.

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