The British government is allowed to perform mass surveillance of Britons’ social media and email accounts because the servers are based abroad, a security tribunal has heard.
The Daily Mirror reports that Security and Counter-Terrorism chief Charles Farr said the loophole means that government is even allowed to monitor private messages.
Under UK law, police and security services need a warrant to intercept communications within the UK, including phone calls and letters, but as many internet servers are based outside Britain, they do not fall under this regulation. In fact, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act specifically permits them to be monitored.
Mr Farr said that communications via Facebook, Twitter and Google should therefore be regarded as “external communications”. A Google search may also be regarded as “external” and therefore open to snooping.
Mr Farr revealed the information in response to a submission by privacy campaigners to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body that deals with complaints about the security services.
Me justified the policy, saying that without it the government wouldn’t have “adequate levels of intelligence”.
James Welch, director of campaign group Liberty, said: “If there was any doubt our snooping laws need a radical overhaul, there can be no longer.”