LONDON - UK spy agency GCHQ is monitoring social media accounts, gathering thousands of megabytes of citizens' information, according to a privacy rights group.
Rights group Privacy International has unearthed documents that show UK intelligence services collect data on millions of UK citizens via popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and share harvested information with foreign governments and private businesses, without ministerial permission or official oversight.
The exposure represents the first concrete confirmation of the type of information collected and held by UK intelligence agencies, although it remains unclear what aspects of communications they hold and other types of information government agencies are collecting, beyond broad unspecific categories such as biographical details, commercial and financial activities, communications, travel data, and legally privileged communications.
Other documents obtained by Privacy International reveal the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office (IPCO), the body tasked with overseeing intelligence agencies' activities, was kept in the dark about intelligence services' sharing of massive databases with foreign governments, law enforcement and industry, potentially for decades — and these activities remain without proper oversight.
This abject lack of supervision comes despite the IPCO specifically raising concerns about the role of private contractors (who are given "administrator" access to such collected information), particularly over the lack of safeguards in place to prevent misuse of systems by third party contractors.