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Privacy Watchdog Launches Campaign To Allow People To Find Out If They Were Under Surveillance

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Privacy International (PI), the UK based watchdog that promotes the right to privacy, has unveiled a new campaign to allow people to find out whether they were under surveillance at any point of time during the last seven years. The campaign entitled “Did GCHQ illegally spy on you?” comes soon after a UK court declared that the data sharing between NSA and GCHQ was illegal. The organization is asking people from all over the world to join the campaign so that it can pass the information to the appropriate authorities who can then decide further course of action. In addition, PI is also demanding the removal of all surveillance data that has been collected over the years.

While announcing the launch of the campaign, PI mentioned that the platform would allow people from all corners of the world to check whether or not NSA has illegally spied on them. In a detailed post published on its website, the watchdog also said that the campaign has been launched in response to the court order which said that GCHQ illegally obtained millions of communication records from the American intelligence agency NSA till December’ 2014. The campaign would allow any individual (not just the British citizens) to ask the British intelligence agency whether his/her records were shared by the NSA.

Regarding what it intends to do with the collected data, the watchdog said that it will first collate all the information and then submit it to Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). People who have been illegally spied upon and whose information by passed by the American spy agency to its British counterpart can then ask for the deletion of their communication records (phone records, emails and other details). The watchdog also said that considering the surveillance capabilities of the NSA and GCHQ and data sharing culture between them, it is possible that millions of people could have been affected by the illegal spying.

The IPT, the only authority in United Kingdom which oversees the complaints filed against the intelligence agencies, had ruled in February that the data shared between the NSA and GCHQ prior to December’ 2014 was illegal since the laws governing British access to NSA’s surveillance programs were a secret. It was only due to the revelations made by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the full extent of co-operation between the two intelligence agencies became known. It was the first time when the IPT in its decade long history had declared the activities of an intelligence or security agency as illegal.

The Deputy Director of Privacy International mentioned that while it was known that the American and British intelligence agencies were conducting mass surveillance, never before it was possible for the general public to find whether their phone calls or emails were shared between the NSA and GCHQ. He also mentioned that everyone has a right to know whether they were spied upon and GCHQ must clarify whose and what kind of records they hold.

If you want to know whether your emails or phone communications were ever intercepted by the NSA and passed on to GCHQ, you can join the PI’s campaign by visiting this page.

July 9, 2015

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