back to article Court finds GCHQ and MI5 engaged in illegal bulk data collection

A significant legal blow has been dealt to the British government over its secret mass surveillance activities. The mysterious Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which oversees Blighty's snoops, has ruled that the bulk collection of personal data — conducted by GCHQ and MI5 between 1998 and 2015 — was illegal. Responding to a …

  1. Mage Silver badge

    Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Well, solution is obviously to exit EU, then ECHR, then various conventions (Hague, Berne, Geneva) and UN.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

      In case anyone is in doubt, I'm being sarcastic and thinking of Theresa "1999" May. The Wilfred Greatorix stories more like UK than Orwell's 1984, as after all he was really condemning contemporary regimes.

      1. BillG
        Coat

        Court finds GCHQ and MI5 engaged in illegal bulk data collection

        Court finds GCHQ and MI5 engaged in illegal bulk data collection

        I'm shocked, shocked, that gambling is going on in this establishment!

        1. Mark 65

          Re: Court finds GCHQ and MI5 engaged in illegal bulk data collection

          Ok, so they broke the law for over a decade. What's the consequence? Fines? Jail terms? What? Fuck all, business as usual, thanks for coming.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

      That is expected.

      End of the day, ECHR and the European council were proposed by Churchil as a "Never Again" measure so that there is never ever a repeat of what happened in the 1930-es in the _RUN_ _UP_ to WW2 so that we do not have a WW3 in the same mould.

      They will be repealed and removed with extreme prejudice from the British statute book. Anyone with _DIFFERENT_ expectations should only go back to the recordings of the Tory party conference and see the roaring applause which Teresa May got by quoting the Mein Campf (later appropriated by Stalin and from his ravings by Putin). That is where the citizenship quote comes from. Just to make things sure that this is not a fluke, not a hallucination and not a figment of imagination, this was followed by the Home Secretary including exerpts from the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" (1934, Nazi Germany) and "Amendments to the Law for the Protection of the State" (1934, Bulgaria aligning to the Nazi axis). This is where the idea to publish the numbers of J^H Europeans employed by a company comes from.

      So you are spot on. Said pesky Human Rights legislation shall be repealed in the name of building the future EuropeanFrei British Reich.

      Have an upvote.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

      Didn't they just make UK troops above the law recently?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Didn't they just make UK troops above the law recently?

        Former Home Secretaries have been above the law since Time Immemorial.

    4. Sil

      Re: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

      Leaving the EU and reneging on the ECHR are two very distinct things.

      The ECHR involves 47 countries, including Russia.

      I don't think the UK will find many countries willing to even trade with it, or negociate with it on any matter of importance, should it not respect this fundamental international treaty.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

        "I don't think the UK will find many countries willing to even trade with it, or negociate with it on any matter of importance, should it not respect this fundamental international treaty."

        Theresa May has ensured that most of Europe is a write off anyway (see Lionel Barber's piece in the FT today) with her pandering to the Tory right wing, so our trading partners are going to be Saudi, Australia and the US. None of those is a big believer in the ECHR.

        TM even wants to bypass Parliament and be a proper dictator. It is scarily similar to the rise if fascism.

        1. Leeroy Silver badge

          Re: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

          Very true, we didn't vote her in etc.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know of a Data Center, where there is a Server which has a Sealed rack connected to it

    In the sealed rack is Cameras, and monitoring computers checking Every connection into and out of this persons server.

    The staff at the center are not allowed to discuss this machine nor are they allowed to touch it

    The server owner is also not allowed access to the machine.

    (Note I am nothing to do with the data center nor the servers involved. But I am reliably informed that this is not the only Server in this state.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Credibility?

      Do you have any evidence or are we just supposed to believe that?

    2. smudge Silver badge
      Holmes

      Sounds like reasonable security to me. We have systems for commercial customers (household names) like that.

      Cameras activated when the rack is opened.

      "monitoring computers checking Every connection into and out of this persons server." That'll be a firewall, then :) Yes, I am aware that more sophisticated checking is available.

      Only pre-authorised support staff can physically access the systems. That excludes the data centre staff and the customer staff.

      So, nothing spooky at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I could go into our customer DC and point to about 20 of these sort of racks.

        Nothing uncommon

        Oh, ours are alarmed back to the customer as well.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Yup, we keep our customer's servers in a data centre which is guarded by ex-equaddies and plenty of barbed wire, and to get into the rack you need to go through a whole rigmarole to get a pass, and you still need keys to get any closer than the door.

      Quite the pain in the bum when all you need to do is swap a borked disk.

  3. kyndair
    Trollface

    I'm shocked, shocked I tell you. That the statutory bodies would break statutes and the executive would hide and abuse the sovereign will of parliament.

    Well at least when we've got rid of all that EU nonsense we can put new laws in place to make it legal to tap anyone's communication without oversight.

    1. nematoad Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Why bother?

      "...we can put new laws in place to make it legal to tap anyone's communication without oversight."

      Let's not take up MP's time with this sort of thing.

      The government is quite happy to allow this sort of behaviour by their "security" apparatus without all the bother of drafting and passing laws. After all it's all a big secret and nobody knows about it.

      Anyway MPs have better things to do with their time like thinking up cunning plans to pad their expenses and the paid jobs and directorships that a lot of them have. They can't manage on a basic £74,962 you know.

    2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Yes, could have knocked me down with a feather

      Had to read it twice to believe it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The public and Parliament deserve an explanation as to why everyone’s data was collected for over a decade without oversight"

      It's a good job that we change our government every 4 or 5 years then, so that nobody can be held accountable.

      What about the civil service who administer all this stuff? Nah, can't see that happening either.

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: kyndair

      ".....we can put new laws in place....." Already done, which is why HMG's finest are laughing up their sleeves at this "victorious" bolting of the stabledoor after the horse has not just bolted, but a backdoor has been legally added to the stable. All the data collected prior to June 2015 will have already been carefully analysed and sent to the NSA in the States for safekeeping, where it is beyond the reach of the EU. Any data collected since is covered by the Investigatory Powers Bill, and will still be shared with (and probably stored long-term) by the NSA. Gus Hosein will enjoy his pointless victory dance and the spooks will continue with business as usual.

  4. James 51 Silver badge
    Angel

    Crime, but where's the punishment?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Crime and punishment

      Not only that, but have their been convictions of other people where this data was used in the prosecution case? In which case should they be declared mistrials?

      Or is it all stuff to populate our "files"

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: JetSetJim Re: Crime and punishment

        "....but have their been convictions of other people where this data was used in the prosecution case?...." If there were, under English law the evidence would still be admissible and the conviction safe. Even if a future prosecution were to go ahead based on the data collected prior to June 2015, the evidence would still be admissible. The "fruit of a poisoned tree" argument holds in US courts and some European ones, but not in the UK, where the judge gets to decide if any evidence is "unfair", and in a case of terrorism that is very unlikely.

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      > Crime, but where's the punishment?

      Oh it's there, you must have missed the bit where the staff were warned. That'll teach them...

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Crime, but where's the punishment?"

      The only possible "punishment" would have to be against individuals. You can't fine GCHQ or MI5, Anything taken from the budget would simply be replaced by a budget increase, because "terrists"

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do you feel disillusioned ? Powerless ? Do you feel more secure ?

      Pethaps the modern day Stasi has a marketing problem ? It's kind of hard when the only thing they're selling is 'safety' from an exagerated threat.

      In the meantime - go shopping. It'll make yourself feel better.

  5. Ben Boyle

    Law retrospectively changing in...

    3... 2... 1...

    Willing to bet there'll be no actual punishment, maybe a vaguely worded statement about lessons leaned and words having been had with the persons involved.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      ''lessons learned''

      How to not get caught again, even if just by fixing the law.

    2. Syntax Error

      Re: Law retrospectively changing in...

      I don't think there is anything else that could be done. These organisations cannot be fined or put in prison. All they could do is sack someone or move them to a different job. Having any trial would be impossible for security reasons unless it is conducted in secret.

  6. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Illegal but no recourse so justice is shown to be served (but not upheld).

    I wonder if all the migrants who want to come here know it's more oppressive than where they're running from?

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Dunno about the migrants, the refugees are running from bombs and torture so a bit of data slurping is probably not enough to deter them. I wouldn't let it put me off from trying to keep my family alive....

    2. Uffish

      Re: "more oppressive here"

      Surveillance in the UK is probably more pervasive than most countries but, speaking personally, it has not been oppressive.

      The UK has been a master of the intelligence business for centuries and I don't think that anyone has come up with an alternative form of security, so I guess the spooks will be spooking for some time to come.

      A comprehensive paper trail for spooking activities, including asking a 'friend' to lend a hand in the spooking, is the best we can hope for in terms of democratic control.

  7. mintus55

    18 years

    18 years of illegal behaviour but no sanction is available!!

  8. Disgruntled of TW
    Black Helicopters

    And now?

    What now? What was the objective of this law suit? Who watches the watchers?

  9. NonSSL-Login
    Big Brother

    Unfortunately it's too late to do anything about it, no one will have their hand slapped or go to jail for it and no notice will likely be taken for future mass surveillance.

    As the case showed, those with access to the database used it to look up birthdays and spy on friends and family, even though they were told in advance not to do it.

    With this in mind, now we are giving however many police officers full access to our browsing history and all phone calls via ICR records and other powers, with just as little oversight from abuse. It doesn't take a genius to know what will happen.

    1. TitterYeNot
      Big Brother

      "It doesn't take a genius to know what will happen."

      Yes I think we can all see where this is going. To save mucking about and to avoid possible future unpleasantness involving cages, please can I cut straight to the chase and state unequivocally for the record:-

      "Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me!"

      [Edited - Supervisor 89899374C - Thoughtcrime perpetrator's collaborator redacted.]

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "With this in mind, now we are giving however many police officers full access to our browsing history and all phone calls via ICR records and other powers, with just as little oversight from abuse."

      It underscores that oversight is absolutely necessary - and that police shouldn't get off lightly because they're police. If you want to enforce the law and keep the peace then you have to be seen to be held to higher standards - otherwise you end up with situations like the Flying Squad being unable to secure convictions of armed robbers despite catching them redhanded (because the jury don't believe a word they say)

  10. Apprentice of Tokenism
    Thumb Up

    So what?

    Has anyone ever played the classic game Junta? This ruling reminds me of my favourite action card: "Students circulate petition condemning repression. No effect."

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    had been taking place without adequate safeguards or supervision for over a decade

    and therefore, the spooks and their paymasters have the following statement to make:

    hahahahhahahahahahahahha

    ahahhahahahahahahah

    ahahahhahahaahahhhahahhahahahahhaha

    carry on, citizen 564566/2, nothing new to see here!

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: had been taking place without adequate safeguards or supervision for over a decade

      @AC

      Business as usual...

      Wright recalled having fun in the 1950s: "For five years we bugged and burgled our way across London at the State's behest, while pompous bowler-hatted civil servants in Whitehall pretended to look the other way."

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/7547558/Peter-Wright.html

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Fruit and Nutcase Re: had been taking place....

        ".....Wright recalled....." Yeah, just don't forget that Wright's revelations also included the Venona Project, which showed not just the value of interception and decryption, but also the lengths to which the Soviets did infiltrate the West using "useful idiots" as well as professional spies. Pretending there is no value in monitoring communications, even without the threat of terrorism, is simply putting your head in the sandpile up your rectum.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: had been taking place without adequate safeguards or supervision for over a decade

      Citizen 564566/1 seeks to meet Citizen 564566/2 for meaningful exchange of ICR's.

      Likes/Dislkes: Cat videos/mouldy cheese

      Be aware that Citizen 564566/3 is a fake and not who he/she purports to be.

  12. Tubz
    Big Brother

    So will the spooks be forced to wipe the data they illegally obtained from 1998-2015 or will this just be swept under the carpet with some backdoor legal update giving them the right to hold on to it ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So will the spooks be forced to wipe the data they illegally obtained from 1998-2015

      Hahahaha, have an upvote for humour..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There are ways and means...

        You get round that by doing lots of Hadoop Analysis on said Data, that forms a brand new database, having 'no links' to its former data, but having all the intelligence extracted from it.

        In the same way its difficult to prove copyright if someone even makes small changes to the way something was originally formatted, just look at the Samsung Galaxy X v the iPhone X.

        Or you store the data outside the UK on NSA servers, or you get NSA to carry out work on your behalf (and vice versa).

        I'm sure Theresa May's 'Brexit means Brexit', won't concur that 'Illegal Bulk Data Slurp means Illegal Bulk Data Slurp' gets deleted. It's not in Zero-T's nature to invoke such a ruling.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Tubz

      ".....will the spooks be forced to wipe the data they illegally obtained from 1998-2015...." Probably locally, but it is highly likely to have been copied to the NSA" and stored in the States, where the UK's spooks can still mine it when required. It is claimed that the Five Eyes agreement allows the participants to circumvent local privacy laws by getting another member country to do the interception, storage and analysis of data, so there would be nothing stopping the NSA retaining a copy of the pre-June 2015 data after it was deleted in the UK. Sorry, you'll have to keep on buying the tinfoil for hats for a while yet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tubz

        Under Executive Order 12333, it's entirely legal for the NSA, or other TLA, to keep that data handy since it's collected about overseas/non-US citizens.

  13. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    In other news ..

    Secret trials are back in fashion ...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36720830

    'IS fighter' guilty after trial held partly in secret

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In other news ..

      The properly secret ones are the ones you don't know about at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In other news ..

        ney, the proper proper secret ones are the ones when you're found with a broken neck down a delapidated steep, steep staircase.

        ...

        easy, this only happens like, once in a blue moon, and definitely, NEVER in the UK!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A response to the court case on behalf of the security services:

    Fuck off plebs, we'll do what we like and there's nothing you can do about it.

  15. James 36

    hmmmm

    doesn't the Government spokesperson's statement at the end contradict the finding of the court ?

    Or have I misread it ?

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: hmmmm

      You haven't misread it - they're already changed the law to make everything legal.

  16. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    ?????? !!!!!!!!!!

    A Government spokesperson said: "The powers available to the security and intelligence agencies play a vital role in protecting the UK and its citizens. We are therefore pleased the Tribunal has confirmed the current lawfulness of the existing bulk communications data and bulk personal dataset regimes.

    Hmmm? Howdy, Alexander J Martin,

    I appear to haver missed that confirmation of current lawfulness of the existing bulk communications data and bulk personal dataset regimes in the article, and would quite reasonably expect it to remain forever missing, given the inevitable lawlessness which persists to pervade and infect everything, and especially so anything which would think itself important and/or influential enough to be heeded and mindlessly obeyed.

    And it is always so disappointing that GCHQ make such an obvious pig’s ear out of the silk purses they possess. And that is obviously a staffing problem which one cannot dismiss and argue does not go right to the top of the enterprise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ?????? !!!!!!!!!!

      Downvoted for lack of random capitalisation and orthodox, intelligible grammar. I'm disappointed, aman.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: ?????? !!!!!!!!!!

        Forgive him. The fact that the spooks were actually found guilty shocked him so much, he forgot who he was.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ?????? !!!!!!!!!!

          When amanfrommars is making more sense than a government spokesperson, something's afoot ....

          When the Martian chap makes more sense than the UK legal system, we have a problem. Why the * would anyone want to abandon the institutions that have brought in the few safeguards we have, poor though they are?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I really don't understand why everyone keeps going on about 1984 like it's a bad thing, Dune came out and Agadoo was in the charts.

  18. scrubber
    Mushroom

    OTOH

    At least all this data slurping meant there were no terrorist attacks in the UK during those years.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No one is mentioning BT's/Ofcom's role in this

    When you look at the dates BT decided to change their underlying email provider from Yahoo!, you get the impression that the state sponsored hack was GCHQ, on behalf of the NSA from a place they can't be easily traced/touched (and vice versa). GCHQ and NSA using borders and cooperation to evade any Parliamentary/Congressional oversight, by getting one to do the work of the other.

    Did BT get tipped off, or did BT realise from the contracts they were carrying out on behalf of GCHQ/NSA, BT aren't much good at foresight normally.

  20. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Meh

    In other news...

    Today, the British government announce the purchase of an unusually large rug, plus an industrial broom capable of sweeping embarrassing items under said rug.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    STASI

    The East German regime would have been very impressed with HMG. Secret files held on every citizen of an open democracy for seventeen years without anyone suspecting a thing - fantastic.

    It's also interesting that Theresa May, while Home Secretary, suggested that the UK should abandon the European Convention on Human Rights, and get out of the clutches of the European Court of Human Rights. Now we know why.

  22. Adam 1 Silver badge

    > Internal oversight failed, with highly sensitive databases treated like Facebook to check on birthdays, and very worryingly on family members for ‘personal reasons’.

    So who's in jail?

    The biggest problem with these sort of databases is the complete disregard for oversight. When was the last time you heard a TLA ask their ministers'responsible for additional penalties against their own who are caught doing the wrong thing? No, the solution is always apparently additional powers, secret orders, unwarranted surveillance, indefinite detention without charges etc. Here's an idea. How about they start behaving above reproach with the powers they have today before asking for more?

  23. Leeroy Silver badge

    They have enough

    They have enough to hang anyone they choose, looks like it's coming to the point of staying under the radar is the best option :/

    Not that I do try to hide anything but I'm expecting the worst and hoping / planning for the best just like everyone else is in this sinking boat.

    1. scrubber

      Re: They have enough

      Staying under the radar is a new offence under RIPA 2.

      Maybe I shouldn't give them ideas...

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Snafu1

    It's all water under the carpet now (I use the mixed metaphor deliberately)

    <list>The lack of /current/ oversight (& enforcement of same) will be a short-term problem (from gvt PoV), easily fixed or more likely ignored due to current political situations (or possibly some scapegoats thrown to the wolves); the boss(es) sidelined to (early) retirement is the usual method. Then re-hired in a slightly different position a year or so later (see Private Eye's 'Revolving Doors' sequence)

    The lack of /tactical/ oversight will lead to more problems with the plebs in the near future, which can be ignored as this gvt (or at least this administration) won't be in power at that time.. so they can blame it on a previous administration, natch

    The lack of /strategic/ oversight (diluted after several years, if it even gets that far) will lead to an (even) further mistrust of gvt (by the plebs) & the supernumerary powers it makes use of, thus stirring dissent & therefore allowing (the possibility of) foreign agents/influences effective free will using assorted agents, many of whom will be entirely unaware of their role. Think 'black market' & apply it to intelligence roles as well as the traditional goods</list>

    Even discounting the local effects (a pleb uprising - remember the size of the anti-Iraq-war demo vs Blair?) if they happen, this leads to a degenerative spiral; whether it's simply for one country (the UK in this case) or Western-world-wide I don't want to predict :(

    Cynical? Moi? I don't want this to happen. but given the current Gx leaders I wouldn't be surprised if it did :(

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Theresa May's feeling of Gravity.

    Anyone else getting the impression Zero-T's locked down World is collapsing around her very quickly, like a scene from Gravity.

    I'm hoping its not a dream, just hope my Chinese Module escape route comes in the form of Scotland's IndyRef2. Scotland making its own way as part of the European Union. It should hopefully give the 48% an escape option from this Brexit mess.

    Intolerance to others is not a trait I ever want to posses, I too, could have been born anywhere.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    deja vue?

    "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. ... The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home. If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."

    US President James Madison (1751-1836)

  28. Cuddles Silver badge

    Who oversees the overseers?

    "The mysterious Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which oversees Blighty's snoops"

    "the Tribunal ruled it was “not satisfied that ... there can be said to have been an adequate oversight"

    So the oversight body has ruled that oversight has been inadequate for 18 years. Just imagine how bad things would be without the IPT; the IPT would never have been able to rule that the IPT wasn't doing its job.

  29. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Compo

    So where do I go to apply for my compensation?

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