MI5 has been secretly collecting vast quantities of data about UK phone calls for the last 10 years. According to a report on BBC News, the newly-revealed programme was “so secret that few even in MI5 knew about it, let alone the public.” Meanwhile, as part of GCHQ’s continuing charm offensive to bolster the case for wider surveillance powers, a senior officer named “Peter” has taken the unusual step of writing an article in The Guardian. In it, he claims “GCHQ cannot and would not hoover up every piece of information,” despite evidence to the contrary.

For example, drawing on Snowden’s leaks, The Guardian wrote in June 2013: “The sheer scale of [GCHQ]’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible.” The article went on to give some numbers for GCHQ’s spying operations carried out on fibre optic cables linked to the UK: “tapped cables had the capacity, in theory, to deliver more than 21 petabytes a day—equivalent to sending all the information in all the books in the British Library 192 times every 24 hours.”
More recently, we have learned about Karma Police, which GCHQ itself billed as the “world’s biggest” Internet data-mining operation, intended to track “every visible user on the Internet.”
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