A recent Banksy-style street art mural that appeared in Cheltenham, England, near the GCHQ office building.

Kathryn Wright/ Flickr

According to newly published court testimony by a high-ranking British security official, bulk collection of social media posts from sites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter is permissible in the United Kingdom absent a specific warrant under British law, since such information constitutes “external communications.”
In a 48-page declaration (PDF) by Charles Farr, director general of the UK’s Office for Security and Counterterrorism, the senior intelligence official defended the legality of the British government scooping up social media information en masse absent individual search warrants. The testimony was published Tuesday by advocacy organization Privacy International in relation to a suit challenging dragnet government surveillance in the UK.
Farr’s statement, which reveals the “secret government policy” underlying one of the government’s clandestine warrantless bulk surveillance programs—codenamed TEMPORA—marks the first time the UK government has openly commented on its claimed legal justifications for indiscriminate communications interception, Privacy International noted in a press release.
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