Secret documents reveal MI5 and GCHQ's close relationship

Privacy International questions whether the government is bending surveillance rules too far

Previously secret documents revealed by Privacy International have exposed what it claims to be a worrying relationship between MI5 and GCHQ, suggesting the two organisations could be putting UK residents' privacy at risk.

The document, penned by Interception of Communications Commissioner Sir Swinton Thomas in 2004, reveals plans to develop 'the database', a collection of data about citizens of the country that could be used to investigate into people thought to be involved in illegal activities.

Advertisement - Article continues below

It was sent to lawyers of MI5 and GCHQ, asking their opinion on whether it could be used in security operations.

"The documents revealed today demonstrate the Government's troubling history of bending the rules to expand its surveillance powers while minimising safeguards," Caroline Wilson Palow, general counsel at Privacy International, said.

"The particular correspondence that we reveal today, between lawyers for MI5 and GCHQ and the former Interception of Communications Commissioner, is also an illuminating example of how oversight can go wrong when it lacks sufficient transparency and resources."

She went on to explain that Privacy International thinks the former Commissioner should not have permitted GCHQ to acquire communications data in bulk when the public will not be sufficiently protected. 

"Indeed, the former Commissioner even goes so far as agreeing with GCHQ and MI5 that collecting our communications data from service providers would not be an interference with our privacy. MPs are about to vote on the most important surveillance legislation in a generation." Wilson Palow continued.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

"Privacy International, and experts from across academia, civil society and the oversight bodies themselves have been calling for much stronger oversight powers. This latest revelation should give MPs food for thought."

Featured Resources

Navigating the new normal: A fast guide to remote working

A smooth transition will support operations for years to come

Download now

Putting a spotlight on cyber security

An examination of the current cyber security landscape

Download now

The economics of infrastructure scalability

Find the most cost-effective and least risky way to scale

Download now

IT operations overload hinders digital transformation

Clearing the path towards a modernised system of agreement

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/policy-legislation/general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/355337/ico-will-reduce-gdpr-fines-due-to
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

ICO to relax GDPR enforcement during coronavirus economic downturn

16 Apr 2020
Visit/security/privacy/355304/nhs-working-with-apple-google-coronavirus-tracking-app
privacy

The NHS teams up with Apple and Google on coronavirus tracking app

14 Apr 2020
Visit/policy-legislation/data-protection/355250/health-sites-sharing-users-medical-data-with-major-tech
data protection

Health sites are 'unlawfully' sharing medical data with Facebook and Google

7 Apr 2020
Visit/policy-legislation/data-protection/355184/supreme-court-finds-morrisons-was-not-liable-for-2014
data protection

Supreme Court rules Morrisons was not liable for 2014 data breach

1 Apr 2020

Most Popular

Visit/laptops/29190/how-to-find-ram-speed-size-and-type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

24 Jun 2020
Visit/security/vulnerability/356295/microsoft-patches-high-risk-flaws-that-can-be-exploited-with-a
vulnerability

Microsoft releases urgent patch for high-risk Windows 10 flaws

1 Jul 2020
Visit/business/policy-legislation/356256/uk-invested-about-ps500m-in-wrong-gps-satellites
Policy & legislation

UK gov buys "wrong" satellites in £500m blunder

29 Jun 2020