Report finds that GCHQ snooping laws need to be overhauled in the aftermath of Snowden’s security leaks
21st Mar 2015
A major review launched after Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the surveillance tactics of the US National Security Agency has stated that snooping laws surrounding the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), MI5, and MI6 need to be renovated, as it stated that GCHQ is not authorized to collect and read the emails of the UK population.
The report, Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework, provided the most detailed information of the tactics of UK spy agencies thus far, and stated that although GCHQ and the British spy agencies do not undertake blanket surveillance of the public, legislation which governs their actions needs to be more transparent and updated.
The report noted that the data collected by GCHQ and British spy agencies was gathered via ‘bulk interception’ of communication to focus on a target, rather than blanket surveillance of the UK’s population. As the information is filtered to the target, and the report states that a minute amount of data is seen by a ‘human eye’, leading it to conclude that Britain’s spy agencies were did not, and were not trying to, circumvent the law.
However, the report said that laws surrounding the activities of intelligence and security agencies are “unnecessarily complicated and – crucially – lacks transparency”, calling for the current legislation which governs the agencies’ actions to be replaced by a single, new Act of Parliament.
The review stated that the growth of the internet had resulted in tension between privacy and security, and that ‘limits and safeguards are essential’ for the public’s safety, but that ‘investigative action which intrudes into an individual’s privacy can only be taken where it is for a lawful purpose and is determined to be necessary and proportionate’.
The report noted that the principles of a new act should be based on ‘authorization procedures, privacy constraints, transparency requirements, targeting criteria, sharing arrangements, oversight, and other safeguards that apply to the use of those capabilities’.