Google Inc (GOOG) and Facebook Inc (FB) Snooping Legal: UK Spy Boss

The UK government has allowed the intelligence service GCHQ to monitor the British use of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and web-based email and for doing so no specific warrants would be required.Director General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, Charles Farr or popularly known as the spy boss, has classified certain activities as “external communications” and a broad warrant can cover all of such activity and no extra clearance would be needed for interception.

Snowden talked about this earlier

Privacy International (PI) is a campaign group with which the intelligence service had a legal battle and as a part of it this policy has been revealed. This policy has been labeled as “patronizing” by PI.

Under “external communications”, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter, YouTube were included. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), web searches and webmail services like Hotmail and Yahoo too form a part of it. Director General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, Charles Farr told PI that by external communications they mean that no additional legal clearance will be needed for intercepting those.

Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower has made certain leaks about global government surveillance in which he outlined the legal framework of UK that allows the mass interception of communications on which comment has been made for the first time by UK. Temporary asylum has been sought by the former National Security Agency contractor in Russia after he revealed a lot of details relating to the snooping of internet and phone.

No warrant required

Getting a targeted warrant issued is a must for intercepting the internal communications that took place between citizens. Only when an illegal activity is suspected, such warrants can be issued and it is mandatory to get them signed by minister.

A written statement comprising of 48 pages has been issued by Mr. Farr in which he explained that collection of certain type of information does not need a minister signed warrant. Inc (NASDAQ:FB) postings and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), searches send the information overseas and this constitutes an act of external communication, and for these a signed warrant is not needed.

However, only under some strictly limited circumstances, reading, looking at or listening to data collected in this manner is allowed, said Mr. Farr. He explained that intercepting a material and reading, looking at or listening to it are very different things.

GCHQ was granted the relevant power after the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act came into effect.