Here's How to Find Out if the GCHQ Used NSA Data to Spy on You

By Gerald Lynch on at

A few weeks back, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that GCHQ had been spying unlawfully on British citizens, using the NSA's Prism and Upstream tools to gain access to private communications. Anyone may have fallen foul of GCHQ's secret snooping. But it doesn't have to remain secret. Here's how to go about finding out if you've been spied on by the GCHQ and, hopefully, have the data acquired destroyed.

Privacy International, a  London-based privacy advocacy group, has put together an online form allowing you to formally request information on whether or not you've been spied on in the past. You can view it here.

All that's needed at this point is an email address and phone number and, seeing as the illegal intelligence sharing affects people around the world, you need not be either British nor living in the UK to make a request, too.

However, more detailed personal information may be required for the most accurate results. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has a more complex form that you can fill out, should you choose to make a more in-depth complaint.

A few things worth noting though. The IPT ruling only refers to historical snooping prior to December 2014, so if the GCHQ is investigating you right now, you won't be able to find that out. It's also only in relation to cases where information from the NSA's Prism surveillance program and Upstream web taps were passed on to the GCHQ -- any spying program that GCHQ has conducted of its own accord remains off limits.

By making a request through the form, you're authorising Privacy International's legal team to pass your personal information on to GCHQ and the IPT. This allows Privacy International to "seek a declaration my rights under Article 8 and Article 10 [of the UK's Human Rights Act] have been violated and to request my records to be deleted [sic]”.

There's a slight irony here of course in passing over your personal data to GCHQ in order to ascertain whether or not they were spying on you in the first place. But all data can only be stored for the length of the IPT investigation.

The process will be a long and slow one, possibly taking many years, and should the Investigatory Powers Tribunal find that you were illegally spied on it has a “a statutory obligation to investigate any complaint made against GCHQ”, which could require your continued co-operation further down the line. But, if your privacy is a burning issue for you, this is the best place to start to make a stance against snooping. [Privacy International , IPT UK]

Cheers for the tip, Tim!