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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Is the state abusing its access to our personal data?

The Independent reports that British spies have been collecting bulk data on people for years, and abusing it to find out people’s addresses for birthday cards.

They say that new documents obtained by Privacy International during a legal hearing show that MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have been collecting and relying on huge amounts of data collected on almost every person in the country. And the papers show that spies have even been hacking themselves to find out that personal information so that they can use it for booking holidays and spying on their family members to get personal details. The papers also prove that the collection of bulk data has been happening for much longer than previously known:

The files show the huge amount of information that is being gathered by British spying groups. Ministers have previously argued that only people who are suspected of criminal or terrorist behaviour will be tracked – but they show that spies have been collecting bulk personal datasets on a range of innocent people for years, and arguing that they are used to find legitimate suspects.

The papers show how that same information has been used by spies to find out personal information, like looking up people’s addresses to send birthday cards.

“We’ve seen a few instances recently of individual users crossing the line with their database use, looking up addresses in order to send birthday cards, checking passport details to organise personal travel, checking details of family members for personal reasons. Another area of concern is the use of the database as a ‘convenient’ way to check the personal details of colleagues when filling out service forms on their behalf.

All of this may sound a bit incestuous of course but it raises fundamental questions about the safeguards that are in place to protect the privacy of innocent citizens who are not suspected of any crime. Time to review the rules and tighten them up in my view.
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