UK online snooping policy challenged and revealed by charities

Published: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 by Rad

A top UK counter-terrorism official has been forced to reveal a secret government policy justifying the mass surveillance of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google users in the UK.

The policy was revealed after a legal challenge brought by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and six national civil liberties organisations.

Charles Farr, the director general of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism said in a statement that the surveillance is permitted under the law because communications via US-based online services are defined as “external communications”.


Farr’s statement, published by the rights organisations, is the first time the UK government has explained why it considers it legal to intercept communications through its Tempora programme.

By defining communications via US-based platforms as "external", UK spy agencies effectively freed themselves of the restrictions imposed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Under the legislation, which regulates the surveillance powers of public bodies, “internal” communications may be intercepted only under a warrant that relates to a specific individual or address.

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