The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled that UK spy agencies broke privacy rules by collecting huge amounts of UK citizens’ data without adequate oversight. Data practices of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 were put under the spotlight when campaign group Privacy International complained about the agencies’ data collection.
Although an official policy about how data collection should be carried out lawfully was put in place in February 2015, the Tribunal ruled that some data collection prior to this policy coming into force did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Although GCHQ argued that such data collection was ‘vital for identifying and
developing intelligence targets’, Article 8 of ECHR ensures that all citizens have the right to a private life and that any interference with personal data must be lawful and necessary.
The tribunal found that data collected by the agencies, specifically personal datasets, did not comply with Article 8 and were ‘unlawful.’
The Home Office in a statement said: “The powers available to the security and intelligence agencies play a vital role in protecting the UK and its citizens.
“We are therefore pleased the tribunal has confirmed the current lawfulness of the existing bulk communications data and bulk personal dataset regimes.”
This latest development regarding the government and data collection will be sure to fuel the ongoing debate around the Snoopers’ Charter, or IP Bill as it is officially known.
The IP Bill also presses for more powers over bulk data collection, with a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights saying that the bulk collection powers were “inherently compatible” with the right to respect for private life.