Campaigners reveal government's secret spying regime

Intelligence services have had access to people's health, financial and communication data for 15 years

The scale of mass data surveillance in the UK is far more sweeping than the government's official proposals currently being considered by Parliament, documents have revealed.

Security services MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have used Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 to justify gathering hundreds of millions of records onBritish citizens and other UK residents for the last 15 years, Privacy International found.

Spy agency analysts can then link together these records using filters such as telephone numbers or other values, the campaign group said, after receiving the documents as it prepares for a tribunal ontheInvestigatory Powers Bill.

Section 94 has also enabled them to access data outside the protection of the existing Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and even goes beyond the powers proposed in the Investigatory Powers Bill,the government's proposed legislation that would force internet service providers to collect and hold certain data on people's web browsing histories for up to a year.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

This is because section 94potentially allowed for the collection of medical and biometric data, such as blood type and hair and eye colour, though there is no indication that these kinds of information have been collected.

The existence of Bulk Personal Datasets (BPDs), as they are called, was first revealed in March 2015 in an Intelligence & Security Committee (ISC) report, however, they have existed for the past 15 years without the knowledge of the public or Parliament.

Millie Graham Wood, legal officer at Privacy International said: "The information revealed by this disclosure shows the staggering extent to which the intelligence agencies hoover up our data.

"This can be anything from your private medical records, your correspondence with your doctor or lawyer, even what petitions you have signed, your financial data, and commercial activities."

"The agencies have been doing this for 15 years in secret and are now quietly trying to put these powers on the statute book for the first time, in the Investigatory Powers Bill," she added.

Jacob Ginsberg, senior director of encryption software company Echoworx and outspoken opponent of Investigatory Powers, said: "The UK government and its intelligence agencies are watching UK citizens as if they were criminals."

"The government should not be allowed to circumvent existing laws that have been put in place to protect law-abiding citizens from potentially harmful intrusion. Having the power to sweep someone's phone records, financial data, medical records and internet communications without a warrant during bulk data collection is morally wrong," he added.

The details of the case and associated documents can be read here.

Featured Resources

The IT Pro guide to Windows 10 migration

Everything you need to know for a successful transition

Download now

Managing security risk and compliance in a challenging landscape

How key technology partners grow with your organisation

Download now

Software-defined storage for dummies

Control storage costs, eliminate storage bottlenecks and solve storage management challenges

Download now

6 best practices for escaping ransomware

A complete guide to tackling ransomware attacks

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/government-it-strategy/28305/ir35-news
Policy & legislation

Businesses urged to continue IR35 preparations despite Conservative review pledge

3 Dec 2019
Visit/security/354156/google-confirms-android-cameras-can-be-hijacked-to-spy-on-you
Security

Google confirms Android cameras can be hijacked to spy on you

20 Nov 2019

Most Popular

Visit/security/identity-and-access-management-iam/354289/44-million-microsoft-customers-found-using
identity and access management (IAM)

44 million Microsoft customers found using compromised passwords

6 Dec 2019
Visit/cloud/microsoft-azure/354230/microsoft-not-amazon-is-going-to-win-the-cloud-wars
Microsoft Azure

Microsoft, not Amazon, is going to win the cloud wars

30 Nov 2019
Visit/hardware/354237/five-signs-that-its-time-to-retire-it-kit
Sponsored

Five signs that it’s time to retire IT kit

29 Nov 2019
Visit/business/business-strategy/354195/where-modernisation-and-sustainability-meet-a-tale-of-two
Sponsored

Where modernisation and sustainability meet: A tale of two benefits

25 Nov 2019