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Angry about PRISM? The ISC wants to hear from you

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is soon to ask for public written and oral evidence to supplement an investigation into UK privacy laws. The investigation will determine whether current privacy legislation is fit for purpose.

The ISC promised in July to look into the allegations of spying by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in tandem with the American NSA's PRISM programme. GCHQ is also accused of tapping all Internet traffic passing through the UK, and sharing it with its US counterpart, as part of a programme codenamed TEMPORA.

The Chairman of the ISC, the Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, said in a statement, "In recent months concern has been expressed at the suggested extent of the capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and the impact upon people's privacy as the agencies seek to find the needles in the haystacks that might be crucial to safeguarding national security."

This follows a previous statement by the ISC, which argued that allegations of law-breaking by GCHQ were "unfounded".

However, the committee conceded that this could be because the laws are no longer effective.

"Although we have concluded that GCHQ has not circumvented or attempted to circumvent UK law, it is proper to consider further whether the current statutory framework governing access to private communications remains adequate."

The committee will seek a wide range of evidence, some of it classified, but it would also include statements to be sent in by the public.

"The Committee will also be inviting written evidence more broadly, including from the public," in order to ensure that it will "consider the full range of opinions expressed on these topics."

Once the written submissions have been taken into account, members of the public will be invited to participate in "oral evidence sessions, some of which it [the committee] expects to hold in public."

In the past, the ISC has been highly critical of the UK government's cyber-security efforts. It concluded in July 2011 that the government exhibited "confusion and duplication of effort" when dealing with cyber threats, and last year it argued that UK cyber-security was inadequate to defend against emerging threats.

The investigation should be underway soon, but the body has a lot on its plate right now.

"The Committee is currently focussed on its detailed investigation into the security and intelligence agencies' actions in relation to those suspected of murdering Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich."

The investigation comes as a number of privacy groups have crowdsourced funds to take the UK government to the ECHR for their role in the PRISM scandal.