UK Government Has Secretly Created A Huge Database Storing Details About Its Citizens’ Private Lives — Since 2000

Long before the vast planetary surveillance programs being carried out by the Five Eyes team were revealed by Edward Snowden, there was Echelon, a similarly globe-spanning system for slurping up communications. The person who did more than anyone to expose this top-secret collaboration was the UK journalist Duncan Campbell:

In 1988, he revealed the existence of the ECHELON project, which has since 1997 become controversial throughout the world. In 1998, he was asked by the European Parliament to report on the development of surveillance technology and the risk of abuse of economic information, especially in relation to the ECHELON system. His report, “Interception Capabilities 2000” was approved by the European Parliament in April 1999, and presented to the parliament in Brussels in February 2000. In July 2000, the European Parliament appointed a committee of 36 MEPs to further investigate the ECHELON system.

The MEPs wrote another report, “on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system)”, which was presented in July 2001. It would doubtless have created some pretty big waves in the EU had not the attack on the Twin Towers a few months later meant that nobody wanted to be seen weakening the intelligence services. The report was filed and Echelon was forgotten — and carried on as before. A new article by Campbell published in The Register shows that around the same time that most politicians lost interest in exposing mass surveillance, the UK government was busily building another, highly-intrusive monitoring system that was only acknowledged very recently:

Finally, on November 4th [2015], the Home Office took the lid off what had been going on secretly since 2000. Asking Parliament to allow mass surveillance of telephone records to continue, Home Secretary Theresa May admitted that “under Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 … successive governments have approved the security and intelligence agencies’ access” to [bulk] communications data from communication service providers”, claiming that it helped MI5 “thwart a number of attacks here in the UK”.

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