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Civil liberties group challenge government over unlawful data handling

CIVIL liberties groups launched fresh legal action against the government today following disclosures that MI5 has unlawfully retained citizens’ personal data for several years.

Liberty and Privacy International are taking the government to a specialist tribunal to force it to disclose what they describe as “the extent of MI5’s lawlessness” in relation to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter.

The two groups will ask the investigatory powers tribunal to rule that MI5 violated citizens’ human rights to privacy and free expression by unlawfully retaining and mishandling personal data.

They will also ask for any surveillance warrants granted as a result of the allegedly unlawful activity to be quashed and for illegitimately obtained or retained data to be destroyed.

The fresh challenge comes after a High Court hearing last year revealed that an MI5 compliance team had expressed concern in January 2016 that personal data “might be being held in ungoverned spaces.”

In a statement, Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: “MI5 has unprecedented and dangerous power to spy on any one of us and collect our sensitive private information.

“It’s clear that the so-called safeguards in our surveillance laws are totally ineffective in protecting our rights.

“The Snoopers’ Charter needs to be torn up and the government must create a targeted surveillance regime that protects us while respecting our rights and freedoms.”

Privacy International’s legal director Caroline Wilson Palow said: “For more than a decade, MI5 has been building massive datasets by systematically collecting our personal information.

“Such practices are a serious interference with our right to privacy and threaten democratic values.”

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