Civil liberty groups challenge the legality of GCHQ's Tempora snooping programme

Civil liberty campaigners have launched a legal challenge against the UK intelligence services in the wake of widespread revelations made concerning the collection of data from citizens by GCHQ and others.

Related: NSA and GCHQ able to break majority of Internet encryption and security

The challenge has been launched by a handful groups, including Privacy International and Amnesty International, and it aims to work out whether the “interception, collection and use of communications” by certain agencies was illegal.

It focuses on the Tempora programme that was originally revealed in documents released by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and the UK government has still yet to confirm or deny whether the scheme even exists or ever did so.

Tempora is the code-name given for GCHQ’s data collection programme that saw data interceptors placed on fibre-optic cables across the UK and high levels of data collected and analysed.

Some of the data that was able to be accessed includes recordings of voice calls, the content of email messages and entries made on social media websites as well as a lot more besides.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal [IPT] is investigating Tempora on behalf of the civil liberty groups and specifically looks at cases where it’s believed UK spying laws have been broken. It is mainly trying to work out whether there is indeed a Tempora programme and if it has violated article eight and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Liberty are also a part of the case and the latter’s involvement comes after it worked out it was “highly likely” to have been snooped on by the Tempora programme.

Prime Minister David Cameron further stoked the fire at the end of last week by rushing out new powers relating to the retention of phone and Internet records by the Police and security services that have been roundly criticised as going too far.

IPT’s hearing is also probing the UK’s use of the US Prism data mining scheme and will report back with its results during the hearing at the Rolls Building in London.

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