Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Britain spies on human rights groups

Two weeks ago the European Court of Human Rights ruled that GCHQ's mass interception regime violated human rights. But it gets worse - because a case before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has discovered that they were spying on human rights group Privacy International:

The security service MI5 acted unlawfully by intercepting and accessing private communications data belonging to the campaigning group Privacy International, Britain's most secret court has ruled.

MI5, admitted today (25 September 2018) that it had captured and read private communications data belonging to non-governmental organisation (NGO) Privacy International at a hearing of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

It emerged that the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), or MI6, and GCHQ also unlawfully collected data on the activities of the pressure group, which has been campaigning for greater oversight of the security services.

The revelations came during a hearing today, as part of long-running legal challenge by Privacy International into the lawfulness of the intelligence agencies’ powers to collect bulk communications data (BCD) and bulk personal datasets (BPD) on citizens

["Bulk communications data" means phone, internet and email records. "Bulk personal datasets" means all other records about a person: births, addresses, contact details, and health records - effectively a giant dossier about a person].

Privacy International advocates for the right to privacy and are obviously opposed to the UK's mass-surveillance systems. In a democracy, that shouldn't get you spied on by the government. Targetting them is the sort of shit that happened in the Soviet Union, or in modern China, states we think of as undemocratic tyrannies. And the natural conclusion to draw from this revelation is that Britain is now also such a tyranny.

But we should also be asking questions of our own spy agencies down here in New Zealand. They're part of the "Five Eyes" along with the UK, and what does, they tend to do too. So we need to find out what sorts of bulk personal data they are collecting, and what safeguards (if any) there are on its access and use. Otherwise we may wake up one morning and discover that we're a tyranny too.