from the so-we-will-just-monitor-everything dept.
Britain's top counter-terrorism official has been forced to reveal a secret government policy justifying the mass surveillance of every Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google user in the UK.
A witness statement from Charles Farr, the director general of Security and Counter Terrorism, explained how intercepting tweets, Google and YouTube searches and Facebook posts was permitted by law due to their classification as 'external communications'.
The report, made public as part of a legal challenge by numerous civil liberties organisations against the government, classifies external communications as those sent and received outside "British Islands", regardless of whether it passes through the British Islands during transit. Google and other web services' largest data centres are generally found within the US and elsewhere in Europe, meaning a search made by an internet user in the UK is likely to involve a communication to an overseas web server.
Mr Farr defended the sharing of communications data from foreign intelligence partners, and from US agencies in particular, as having led directly to the prevention of terrorist attacks and serious crime, and the saving of lives.
Privacy International and other rights groups filed a legal complaint against GCHQ last month over its alleged use of hacking tools to infect computers and smartphones with malicious software, to remotely hijack users' cameras and microphones without their consent.
It seems to me that any connection to a website outside the UK is covered by that definition - in other words, they are monitoring everything that they can on the internet.
The Intercept reports that GCHQ have developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, "amplify" sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be "extremist."
Included in those capabilities is an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call. [ Submitter's note: This item is especially troubling because it allows the GCHQ to "force" a connection between two individuals, manufacturing an association and the scrutiny with which it comes ]