Mass collection of data on population ‘illegal’, UK court told

Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing challenges GCHQ over legality of mass surveillance, as government plans moves to control encryption

The government’s collection of electronic data on the population, including details of phone calls, emails, web browsing, and databases of financial and travel records, are illegal and lack adequate safeguards to protect individuals’ privacy, a court will hear today.

Privacy International, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), claims that the GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 intelligence services’ mass, suspicionless collection of personal data, which can be shared with other government departments, researchers and foreign governments, breaches European law and lacks legally required safeguards.

The case, to be heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal – Britain’s most secret court – comes as prime minister Theresa May signalled her intention to require companies to weaken encrypted communication applications, and to require communications companies to disclose the contents of encrypted messages, following the London and Manchester terror attacks.

The pressure group accuses the government of failing to implement a European Court of Justice ruling last year, following a case brought by Labour MP Tom Watson, which ruled that the UK’s collection of phone and internet data cannot be justified in a democratic society.

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