21:00 GMT15 May 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled on Monday that the country's successive foreign secretaries unlawfully gave rights to the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to gather personal customer data from telecommunications companies until October 2016, Privacy International watchdog said in a press release.

    "The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) today (23rd July 2018), held that, for a sustained period, successive Foreign Secretaries wrongly gave GCHQ unfettered discretion to collect vast quantities of personal customer information from telecommunications companies," the press release revealed.

    According to the statement, for the duration of the investigation into the case, the government had provided inconsistent evidence. First, it claimed that the foreign secretary had complete control over what information telecommunications companies had to provide to GCHQ. However, it later went back on this claim, saying that the state secretary was able to authorize GCHQ to autonomously decide on what information to obtain from telecommunication companies, the press release added.

    READ MORE: FB Data Collected by Cambridge Analytica Were Accessed From Russia – British MP

    "In today’s judgment, the IPT stated that granting such unfettered discretion to GCHQ was an unlawful delegation of power from the Foreign Secretary. The result of the judgment is that a decade’s worth of secret data capture has been held to be unlawful… [The Tribunal] considered that the unlawful drafting of the directions was only remedied by the revised directions made on 14 October 2016," the watchdog said.

    The issue of personal data protection has been in spotlight for several years now and continues to persist because of the multiple data breach scandals that have occurred worldwide during this time. In the most recent case, the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users had been harvested without permission and used for political purposes by the Cambridge Analytica consultancy firm that has filed for bankcruptcy after the outbreak of the scandal in May.

    Previously, the whistleblowers claimed that the users' data was reportedly obtained with an aim to alter opinions of the voters on the verge of the US 2016 presidential elections and the Brexit vote in the UK. Moreover, in April, US Congress started to search for any signs of Russia having access to Facebook users' data in an attempt to establish that Moscow had played a part in the outcome of the 2016 US elections. However, Russia's authorities have repeatedly denied all US allegations and emphasised that the US side has failed to provide any substantial evidence.

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    data, data breach, privacy, Investigatory Powers Bill, Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), United Kingdom
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