How to find out if GCHQ and the NSA spied on you
The British Civil Liberties Group, Privacy International is now offering a new online tool through which individuals and organizations can file complaints with GCHQ about surveillance of phone calls and internet usage. Privacy International has long concerned itself with the sharing of data between the US National Security Agency (NSA) and GCHQ and government surveillance.
Earlier this year, Privacy International got a legal victory, according to which, if a person requests the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal to search the data GCHQ obtained from the NSA for information collected on them, they would have to do so. Further, the Tribunal are required to provide the information, if they find something. However, the catch is that the request has to be made before December 5, 2015. To make it easier, Privacy International has provided “Did GCHQ Illegally Spy on You?” online tool.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the UK earlier this year had ruled that British intelligence services did not conform to the laws when private communications of millions of people that had been collected by the NSA were obtained by them under its mass-surveillance programs known as PRISM and Upstream and shared with the British spy agency. Started in 2007, the PRISM program let the NSA gather bulk data from U.S. companies like Google and Yahoo. The Upstream program involved the accumulation of data by secretly listening into hundreds of undersea cables outside the U.S.
Only the records that have been shared between the NSA and GCHQ prior to December 2014 will be searched by the Tribunal. Ironically, it would not be able to disclose if the NSA spied on you and didn’t share that data with GCHQ, or if the GCHQ obtained data about you on its own and/or shared it with the NSA. There may also be limitations on the amount of data the Tribunal would search.
“Once a claim is filed, the IPT will usually only search GCHQ’s records for unlawful activity during the year before the claim was submitted,” Privacy International told Wired. “What this means is that a claim submitted on 14 September 2015 would lead to records being searched for the time period between 14 September 2014 and 5 December 2014.”
However, there is another warning about the request. Only if you submit details about you such as your name, email address and phone number can only be searched by the Tribunal. By providing your phone number and email address, you are possibly providing information to the British government that it may not have about you. But, as Privacy International points out in its FAQ about the tool, there’s no way around this.
The good news is that if the Tribunal does find details regarding you, the GCHQ must delete that data along with the request form you submitted, once the formal inquiry into your records is completed.