UK approves mass surveillance as privacy battle continues


The surveillance of electronic communications by British intelligence agencies is not a breach of human rights law, a UK tribunal has ruled. But the debate over privacy and spying triggered by the Edward Snowden leaks appears far from over.

The UK’s surveillance laws have been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since documents leaked by Snowden last year revealed that the country’s intelligence services were intercepting millions of electronic communications of individuals and organisations in the name of national security.

Britain’s government has defended the practices as subject to a strict legal framework and on Friday scored a major victory when the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a panel of judges set up to consider complaints over surveillance activities by public bodies, ruled that the monitoring of communications carried out by Britain’s intelligence services did not contravene the UK’s Human Rights Act.

The case had been brought by a number of civil liberties groups, including Amnesty International, Privacy International and Liberty, after information leaked by Snowden revealed the existence of a mass monitoring programme conducted by Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) known as Tempora.

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