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GCHQ 'routinely' intercepting MP emails

Emails of members of the UK Parliament, as well as their peers, have been 'routinely' intercepted and accessed by the GCHQ intelligence agency, as well as the American National Security Agency (NSA), Computer Weekly discovered recently.

GCHQ managed to intercept and read who's sending an email, to whom and with which subject line, Computer Weekly said in a long and detailed post about the matter.

The two agencies were also capable of searching through these emails for 'keywords', it was said.

According to the report, it was possible to intercept these emails after the UK Parliament decided to replace its internal desktop and email service with Microsoft Office 365, back in 2014.

That means all data going through, needs to go through Microsoft's servers located in either Dublin or the Netherlands, meaning – internationally.

“Because files and emails leave the UK’s borders in this way, they are automatically accessible to GCHQ’s bulk interception system, Tempora,” Computer Weekly explains. It was also said that these interceptions are legal, under existing law. Internal communication, messages that don’t leave the country, are protected by the Wilson Doctrine, set up in 1968. But because these emails do leave the country (passing through data centres in Dublin and the Netherlands), they can be legally intercepted.

Microsoft has been in quite a hurry, rushing to build new data centres inside the UK.

A lot of this information was found in the countless documents released to the public by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

According to the report, MPs and peers were not acquainted with the practice.

Photo credit: nzozo / Shutterstock

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a freelance journalist with more than 15 years of experience in writing various types of content, from blogs, whitepapers, and reviews to ebooks, and many more, across sites including Al Jazeera Balkans, TechRadar Pro, IT Pro Portal, and CryptoNews.