In what rights campaigners heralded as a “significant” reproach to government overreach, a British court which oversees the nation’s intelligence and clandestine services ruled Monday that mass surveillance by agencies—including the bulk collection of private data from unwitting citizens and residents—was unlawfully conducted for nearly two decades.
Called the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the panel of judges which provides legal oversight and hears challenges submitted against the country’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), as well as the clandestine services known as M15 and M16, said the surveillance regime was “without adequate safeguards or supervision” during secret spying operations over the course of 17 years, from 1998 to 2015. As theGuardian reports:
The tribunal said the regime governing the collection of bulk communications data (BCD) – the who, where, when and what of personal phone and web communications – failed to comply with article 8 protecting the right to privacy of the European convention of human rights (ECHR) between 1998, when it started, and 4 November 2015, when it was made public.
It added that the retention of of bulk personal datasets (BPD) – which might include medical and tax records, individual biographical details, commercial and financial activities, communications and travel data – also failed to comply with article 8 for the decade it was in operation until it was public acknowledged in March 2015.