The case concerned the bulk collection of data on all forms off communications by the UK intelligence agencies, GCHQ, the Security Service (MI5), and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). The proceedings were brought on June 5, 2015, referring to the "acquisition, use, retention, disclosure, storage and deletion of Bulk Personal Datasets ("BPDs"), whose existence was publicly acknowledged in March 2015 by the Respondents in evidence to, and then in a Report by, the Intelligence Security Committee of Parliament."
The tribunal has ruled that the methods of bulk data collection went against the provisions of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for the "right to respect for one's private and family life, his home and his correspondence."
"The key aspect is that [the security services] were operating these regimes without the public knowing, but also without parliament knowing. When you have regimes that obtain vast quantities of bulk data without anybody knowing, without any adequate oversight, it leaves the regime open to misuse," Privacy International's legal officer, Millie Graham Wood, told Sputnik.
.@GCHQ Mi5/Mi6 unlawfully collected massive volumes of personal communications data and confidential datasets for more than 10 years — court— Alan Travis (@alantravis40) October 17, 2016
"The commissioners also commented that there was bad record-keeping in relation to what directions had been made for the collection of bulk data. These regimes can't operate outside the law. They need to be foreseeable and accessible," Ms. Graham Wood added.
The issue is critical, as the UK House of Lords is currently considering the new Investigatory Powers Bill — known as the Snoopers' Charter — which is designed to bring mass surveillance under strict scrutiny. The Center for Democracy & Technology has slammed the bill as giving the police and intelligence agencies "vast surveillance authorities on British intelligence and law enforcement entities, with weak oversight over the use of those powers."
However, he concluded that: "Bulk powers have been essential to the security and intelligence agencies over the last decade and will be increasingly important in the future. The acquisition and use of bulk data — information acquired in large volumes and used subject to special restrictions —provides vital and unique intelligence that the security and intelligence agencies cannot obtain by any other means."
Millie Graham Wood told Sputnik:
"I hope [the ruling] will cause parliamentarians to see how important oversight is and the detriment of ineffective oversight. One of the problems with the Investigatory Powers Bill is that — whilst the government has said there is oversight — it isn't comprehensive. Where there is judicial involvement, they can only look at whether the right boxes have been ticked, rather than whether the actual request itself is necessary and proportionate."