U.K. intelligence agencies were revealed to be transgressing the European Convention on Human Rights by collecting information about nationwide communications.

The primary agency behind the illegal scheme is the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), but because the court announcement was made official, the data is now considered to be of legal possession.

Two members of the British Parliament are currently fighting the legality of the ruling that allows intelligence agencies to obtain phone records. Image Credit: Top 10 Geeks

British Big Brother is watching you?

According to Privacy International, U.K. intelligence officials have been collecting bulk communications and personal data for years, being able to know who called or sent a message, who was the receiver, what device it originated from, and every detail about the contract held to the network provider.

The courthouse emitted a ruling where it assured that the only information that was not in possession of the intelligence agencies was the content of the communication itself.

But because the laws that comprehend the unauthorized collection of information date back from 1984, the agencies were able to get away with their activities, now having in their possession banking records and lists of first-hand mobile data.

“This judgment confirms that for over a decade U.K. security services unlawfully concealed both the extent of their surveillance capabilities and that innocent people across the country have been spied upon,” stated Mark Scott from the firm performing the lawsuit on behalf of Privacy International.

The program authored by the government was initially revealed by Edward Snowden, who released documents that included detailed descriptions of how the GCHQ monitored internet cables to perform mass surveillance. Until the aforementioned trials, the real implications of the surveillance operation were not clear.

The collection of data includes a year’s worth of data from every smartphone used in the United Kingdom. The data was kept classified and the court was not allowed to see it. The GCHQ operation was slightly altered to follow certain policies, but in essence, it remained the same and many predict that the program will not stop anytime soon.

Keep calm and carry on?

The GCHQ’s intromission was labeled by the court as “highly intrusive.” Even so, no further details were revealed about the collected data. No judge nor minister authorized the collection of such information. All that remained for Privacy International was to call for preventive measures to protect the data against any misuse or security breach that may jeopardize the personal lives of U.K. citizens

Even if network providers are supposed to store records about every phone call that is made on its network, the GCHQ abused its reach to collect the information by the lot. Privacy International argued that the same methods could be applied to any type of database with institutionalized network access.

Since the Snowden leaks, first world governments have been exposed to spy on their own people. But seeing that nationwide internet connection allows for the possibility of easy mass surveillance, government officials tend to choose to sacrifice morality in the form of privacy in exchange for heightened security, especially at a time when terrorist attacks may occur at any time.

Source: The Verge