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Law Must be Strengthened To Protect Data

Britain's most secretive court has heard that the law should be strengthened to protect private data from mass surveillance.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal heard that law enforcement agencies can indiscriminately trawl data on British citizens' phone calls and emails, including email subject lines, where and when messages are sent and the contents of web searches.

This information is known as metadata and is more valuable to intelligence agencies than the actual contents of phone calls and emails as it enables investigators to build up a profile of the individual including their contacts and associates.

Matthew Ryder OC, spoke for the human rights group Liberty and argued that GCHQ's mass surveillance of internet communications violates human rights law.

Ryder told the tribunal that legal safeguards stop the security services from searching the content of phone calls and emails for information that could potentially identify a British citizen.

There is no equivalent safeguard for metadata however, which means that surveillance officers can look through indiscriminately for information.

Carly Nyst, legal director of Privacy International said: "It is critical that the court rejects the government's argument that metadata is less valuable, and thus deserving of lower protection, than communications content."

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