UK Admits To Spying On Google, Twitter, Other Social Media Users
A coalition of advocacy groups has forced the United Kingdom to admit that it has been spying on social media users in the country. However, the British government says its surveillance is legal, since it involves information and computer servers based outside of the UK.
The massive surveillance program was revealed following a lawsuit filed by UK-based Privacy International – along with Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and six other international civil liberty organizations.
Privacy International says the spying – on every UK-based user of Facebook, (NASDAQ: FB), Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), Youtube, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)(NASDAQ: GOOGL) and other social media, “lacks any accountability, and is neither necessary nor proportionate.”
But a statement released last month by Charles Farr, director general of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism at the British Home Office, says those intercepts are permitted by law since they are external communications; that is, originating from outside of the United Kingdom.
This interpretation of online communications could have international and widespread repercussions.
Farr's statement, according to BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera, “reveals that a Google search by someone in Britain may be considered an external communication because the request and the result go abroad to Google's computers,” which are based in the U.S.
The case is expected to be brought before Britain's Investigatory Powers Tribunal next month.
For its part, Google was adamant it does not give out information willingly.
"We cannot say this more clearly—government does not have access to Google servers,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC in an emailed statement.
“We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law,” the statement continued. “Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don't follow the correct process.”
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