GCHQ can and will spy on politicos, rules tribunal

What about protection for whistleblowers? - MP


The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled that GCHQ is allowed to collect the communications of MPs.

An IPT announcement stated that it "heard and resolved issues relating to the status, meaning and effect of what has been called the Harold Wilson Doctrine, or the Wilson Doctrine, originating in the statement in the House of Commons on 17 November 1966 by the Rt Hon Harold Wilson, the then Prime Minister."

Wilson promised that MPs' and peers' phones would not be tapped by the security services. However, he also said that he might secretly remove this rule, and only tell parliament that he had done so at some later point decided by him.

The IPT has ruled in a legal challenge brought by Caroline Lucas MP, and Baroness Jones – to which a separate complaint by former MP George Galloway was appended – that the Wilson Doctrine has no legal effect.

Earlier this year, James Eadie QC suggested this would be the outcome of the Tribunal.

The IPT declared that the Wilson Doctrine could only be considered to apply to "targeted, and not incidental" interception of parliamentary communications.

Despite a claim by Home Secretary Theresa May, that the Wilson Doctrine was "in effect", the Tribunal claimed that it has no legal effect, "save that in practice the Security and Intelligence Agencies must comply with their own Guidance, which has now been disclosed in the Judgment."

"This judgment is a body blow for parliamentary democracy," said Lucas. "My constituents have a right to know that their communications with me aren't subject to blanket surveillance – yet this ruling suggests that they have no such protection."

Parliamentarians must be a trusted source for whistleblowers and those wishing to challenge the actions of the government. That’s why upcoming legislation on surveillance must include a provision to protect the communications of MPs, Peers, MSPs, AMs and MEPS from extra-judicial spying.

The initial complaint followed revelations from Edward Snowden about the TEMPORA programme, which bulk-collects all communications produced in and transiting through the UK.

New Snowden documents published in late September showed that GCHQ – while concerned about judicial oversight – noted internally that the IPT had always found in its favour.

Although the ruling came after the production of the leaked slide, a complaint by Privacy International over bulk data collection resulted in the IPT finding that GCHQ had acted illegally. However, PI was not allowed to file a complaint on citizens' behalf; a website has been set up to help Britons to do this themselves. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Tim Hortons collected location data constantly, without consent, report finds
    Hortons hears a sue

    From May 2019 through August 2020, the mobile app published by multinational restaurant chain Tim Hortons surveilled customers constantly by gathering their location data without valid consent, according to a Canadian government investigation.

    In a report published Wednesday, Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) of Canada and the privacy commissioners from three provinces – Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec – presented the results of an inquiry that began shortly after the publication of a June 2020 National Post article.

    That article revealed the Tim Hortons app tracked location data every few minutes even when relegated to the background, and the report compiled by Canadian privacy officials confirmed as much.

    Continue reading
  • Never fear, the White House is here to tackle web trolls
    'No one should have to endure abuse just because they are attempting to participate in society'

    A US task force aims to prevent online harassment and abuse, with a specific focus on protecting women, girls and LGBTQI+ individuals.

    In the next 180 days, the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse will, among other things, draft a blueprint on a "whole-of-government approach" to stopping "technology-facilitated, gender-based violence." 

    A year after submitting the blueprint, the group will provide additional recommendations that federal and state agencies, service providers, technology companies, schools and other organisations should take to prevent online harassment, which VP Kamala Harris noted often spills over into physical violence, including self-harm and suicide for victims of cyberstalking as well mass shootings.

    Continue reading
  • Abortion rights: US senators seek ban on sale of health location data
    With Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v Wade, privacy is key

    A group of senators wants to make it illegal for data brokers to sell sensitive location and health information of individuals' medical treatment.

    A bill filed this week by five senators, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), comes in anticipation the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling that could overturn the 49-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing access to abortion for women in the US.

    The worry is that if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade – as is anticipated following the leak in May of a majority draft ruling authored by Justice Samuel Alito – such sensitive data can be used against women.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022