Newly disclosed documents offer a rare insight into the secretive legal regime underpinning the British government’s controversial mass surveillance programs.
London-based group Privacy International obtained the previously confidential files as part of an ongoing legal case challenging the scope of British spies’ covert collection of huge troves of private data.
Millie Graham Wood, Legal Officer at Privacy International, said in a statement Wednesday that the documents show “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.”
She added: “The agencies themselves admit that the majority of data collected relates to individuals who are not a threat to national security or suspected of a crime. This highly sensitive information about us is vulnerable to attack from hackers, foreign governments, and criminals.”
The documents, published online Wednesday, primarily relate to the opaque rules regulating British spy agencies’ use of so-called bulk personal datasets, which are obtained without any judicial authorization and contain “personal data about a wide range of individuals, the majority of whom are not of direct intelligence interest,” according to the agencies’ own definition of them.