The Guardian reports: Britain’s intelligence agencies have been secretly collecting bulk personal data since the late 1990s and privately admit they have gathered information on people who are “unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest”.
Disclosure of internal MI5, MI6 and GCHQ documents reveals the agencies’ growing reliance on amassing data as a prime source of intelligence even as they concede that such “intrusive” practices can invade the privacy of individuals.
A cache of more than 100 memorandums, forms and policy papers, obtained by Privacy International during a legal challenge over the lawfulness of surveillance, demonstrates that collection of bulk data has been going on for longer than previously disclosed while public knowledge of the process was suppressed for more than 15 years.
The files show that GCHQ, the government’s electronic eavesdropping centre based in Cheltenham, was collecting and developing bulk data sets as early as 1998 under powers granted by section 94 of the 1984 Telecommunications Act.
The documents offer a unique insight into the way MI5, MI6, and GCHQ go about collecting and storing bulk data on individuals, as well as authorising discovery of journalists’ sources.
Bulk personal data includes information extracted from passports, travel records, financial data, telephone calls, emails and many other open or covert sources. Often they are “fused” together to help pinpoint suspects. [Continue reading…]