Mass surveillance of UK citizens on Facebook, YouTube and Google is legal, says official
Statement marks the first time UK government has justified surveillance policies; classifying US tech services as 'external communications'
The mass interception and surveillance of UK citizens’ activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google is legal, the government’s top anti-terror chief has said.
In the first detailed defence of the UK’s surveillance policies since the Snowden revelations, Charles Farr, the director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, has said that the surveillance of such popular sites is legal because their US origins means they count as “external communications”.
In a 48-page statement issued in response to a legal challenge brought by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty international and seven other civil liberties groups, Farr admits that the government allows the interception of a massive range of online activities without a warrant.
It was previously thought that the interception of communications within the country was covered by section 8(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), with warrants granted when law enforcement suspected the individual in question of illegal activity.
GCHQ in Cheltenham.
However, by defining these web services as “external communications," they fall under the general warrants of section 8(4) of RIPA. This means that a range of activities – from emails to Facebook messages to Google searches – can all be intercepted even when the police have no grounds to suspect the individuals of wrongdoing.
Farr argues that the convoluted paths that data can take across the internet justifies an indiscriminate approach to data collection: “The only practical way in which the government can ensure that it is able to obtain at least a fraction of the type of communication in which it is interested is to provide for the interception of a large volume of communication.”
Referring to the concern that analysts would therefore be able to read the private communications of law abiding citizens, Farr said: "The analyst, being only human and having a job to do, will have forgotten (if he or she ever took it in) what the irrelevant communication contained."
Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: “The suggestion that violations of the right to privacy are meaningless if the violator subsequently forgets about it not only offends the fundamental, inalienable nature of human rights, but patronises the British people, who will not accept such a meagre excuse for the loss of their civil liberties.”
James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty, said: “The security services consider that they’re entitled to read, listen and analyse all our communications on Facebook, Google and other US-based platforms. If there was any remaining doubt that our snooping laws need a radical overhaul there can be no longer.”
Life & Style blogs
Britain's kitchens so filthy that they present a health risk, says new research
The world's first edible garden of cake
Fashion Revolution Day: wear your clothes inside out and ask #whomademyclothes to support worker welfare
KickassTorrents down: new Isle of Man domain taken offline just hours after launch
You don't need to do 'one iota' of exercise to lose weight, says scientific study
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
- 1 Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
- 2 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 3 Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
- 4 Jacob Lescenski and Anthony Martinez: Straight student asks gay friend to High School prom and makes a million Twitter friends
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...
£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: European Recrui...