The Constanze kurz nsa hookups spy agency GCHQ is facing a legal challenge in the European courts over claims that its mass online surveillance programmes have breached the privacy of tens of millions of people across the UK and Europe.
Three campaign groups — Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group and English PEN — together with the German internet activist Constanze Kurz, have filed papers at the European court of human rights alleging that the collection of vast amounts of data, including the content of emails and social media messages, by Britain's spy agencies is illegal.
The move follows revelations by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden that GCHQ has the capacity to collect more than 21 petabytes of data a day — equivalent to sending all the information in all the books in the British Library times every 24 hours.
Daniel Carey, solicitor at Deighton Pierce Glynn, which is taking the case, said: Files leaked by Snowden show GCHQ and its American counterpart, the National Security Agencyfor which he worked, have developed capabilities to undertake industrial-scale surveillance of the web and mobile phone networks. This is done by trawling the servers of internet companies and collecting raw data from the undersea that carry web traffic.
Two of the programmes, Prism and Tempora, can sweep up vast amounts of private data, which is shared between the two countries. The revelations have led to widespread concern Europe and the US about the power of the UK and US security services to gather online communications. Last week Lord King, a former Conservative defence secretary, called for a review of the laws used to justify surveillance and interception techniques.