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GCHQ entitled to "indiscriminately intercept" messages sent on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: June 17, 2014

Comments (10)

GCHQ believes it is entitled to “indiscriminately intercept” communications sent by British citizens via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google, it has been suggested.

A government policy, disclosed by Britain’s top counter-terrorism chief as part of ongoing legal proceedings, seeks to justify the “mass surveillance” of social media, according to civil liberty campaigners.

The policy details described in a written statement by Charles Farr, Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, have been published by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and Pakistani organization Bytes for All.

The groups have brought legal action brought against the UK Government to find out how much online activity is being monitored.

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Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International’s senior director for law and policy, said: “British citizens will be alarmed to see their government justifying industrial-scale intrusion into their communications.

“The public should demand an end to this wholesale violation of their right to privacy.”

The policy suggests almost all communications via Facebook and other social networking sites, as well as all web searches via Google, could be classed as “external communications”, making them fair game to be read and looked at, because they use web-based “platforms” based in the USA.

“Internal” communications can only be intercepted under a specific warrant; warrants that are only granted where there is some suspicion of unlawful activity.

An individual’s “external communications” may be intercepted “indiscriminately” even where there are no grounds to suspect any wrongdoing.

The groups believe GCHQ could be intercepting all communications sent via US-based “platforms” before determining whether they fall into the “internal” or “external” categories.

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  • HuckiePhil  |  June 18 2014, 9:48AM

    It all depends on the definition of 'indiscriminately' held by GCHQ. If by that they mean 'done at random or without careful judgement' then I would object to it simply on the basis of it not being a cost-effective use of the taxpayers money. If they mean 'without unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex' then I'm all for it. Either way, if they want to monitor my Hotmail, Facebook or Google they'll discover precisely nothing that can be held against me, so I'm not bothered either way... and it's back to the old thought that it's mostly only those with something to hide who might object. Big Brother can watch the innocent all it likes as far as I'm concerned via GCHQ, CCTV, bugging, covert surveillance - in fact, bring it on, I'll happily pay a bit more tax and feel much, much safer! So long as they don't use it to nick Banksy. That would be a bit ironic.

  • Icefrog  |  June 18 2014, 9:18AM

    For security consideration, it's common and legal to monitor fb, google, twitter and more. Like many parents use some monitoring software like Aobo Keylogger for Mac to monitor kids' activity to protect their online safety.

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  • SG1970  |  June 17 2014, 10:02PM

    You really think there are enough people in GCHQ have time to sift through you're personal on-line details? Access to all this information is great, if you know what you're looking for. Most of us despite delusions of grandeur, are of no interest.

  • EllJay1  |  June 17 2014, 9:24PM

    Don't be silly folks - don't put personal stuff on any social website if you don' t want everyone to be able to read it.

  • Spud0  |  June 17 2014, 8:48PM

    With the revelation that GCHQ are collecting information from Facebook, Google and other social media websites GCHQ will have more deatiled access to your online private information than any other single organisation or web browser service provider would have. What GCHQ have done is subvert loopholes in the law, if it wants legitamacy then it should ask Parliament to specifically allow these activities and stop bending privacy laws.

  • SG1970  |  June 17 2014, 7:42PM

    Well unless you two are very clever, and using a very advanced VPN to post. Your current web browser knows more than GCHQ about you, it's stored, and sold to virtually anyone.

  • Spud0  |  June 17 2014, 6:14PM

    Spying on everyone makes our goverment and secret services look like a totalitarian regime, this just helps extremists radicalise people, fueling the number of home grown terrorsists.

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  • EllJay1  |  June 17 2014, 5:41PM

    Oh well, you two think what you like but I want to be able to sleep peacefully at night in the knowledge that our security services are doing their best to protect us from terrorism etc.

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  • Chris14  |  June 17 2014, 4:26PM

    Oh no Spud0, when it's done by 'democratic' governments, it's for our own protection and they'd never dream of using it for murky or illegitimate purposes. But when it's done by undemocratic and totalitarian regimes (only the ones we don't like mind, it's OK for the Saudis etc to do) then you're right, it's a grave violation of people's privacy and human rights and deserves condemnation. Funny old world...

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  • Spud0  |  June 17 2014, 3:54PM

    I thought spying on everyone was just not British, it's the sort of thing undemocratic, totalitarian regimes do.

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