“Since the first disclosure of documents regarding the US National Security Agency (NSA)’s collection of US phone records from 5 June 2013 the British public has witnessed a series of alarming disclosures regarding the extent of the surveillance programmes operated by US and UK intelligence services. The source for the vast majority of these reports has been leaks by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. The extent of internet surveillance by the UK government is far greater than the public, experts and even Members of Parliament had previously thought. The disclosures have sent shock waves around the world.
Two programmes in particular have been at the centre of the revelations:
1. PRISM – an operation by the NSA which enables it to gather a wide range of internet communication content (such as emails, chat, video, social network posts etc.) and metadata (technical identificatory data) from the major US internet corporations. The UK Government has been able to tap-in to this resource and obtain information of persons of interests even where interception warrants have to be obtained in respect of such individuals for interception by UK authorities.
2. TEMPORA – a UK Government programme for tapping, storing and analysing all electronic data passing into or out of the UK through the undersea fibre-optic cables that route data between Europe and America. The programme is carried out by Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). A similar programme in the US named UPSTREAM has also been exposed.
The disclosures show that the vast majority of our internet communications are being seized, stored and searched by the UK and US Governments. EU citizens living outside the UK are also directly affected, not least because many of their internet communications will be routed via America through the UK.”