Mass surveillance of the Internet by UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ up until December last year has not been in conformity with the law, a court has ruled.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) said that the agency breached human rights law by accessing intercepted information obtained by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The ruling is the first of its kind, since the privacy watchdog was established in 2000, to back a ruling against any of the UK’s intelligence agencies.
The legal challenge, brought by Liberty, Privacy International and other civil liberties groups, is one of a series initiated in the wake of the revelations from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
However, in December last year the IPT ruled that the UK’s current policies overseeing mass surveillance of the Internet by intelligence agencies no longer violated human rights.
One of the most talked about leaks from former CIA contractor Snowden was PRISM, an Internet-scouring programme that allowed the NSA and FBI to tap directly into the servers of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL, scooping out emails, video chats and instant messages.
The Tribunal is a court which investigates and determines complaints of unlawful use of covert techniques by public authorities infringing the right to privacy and claims against intelligence or law enforcement agency conduct which breaches a wider range of human rights.
Snowden was granted asylum in Russia where he is currently living.