MI5 'unlawfully' handled bulk surveillance data

13 June 2019

MI5 in the dock

MI5 in the dock

MI5 has been accused of breaking the law by storing vast volumes of private data without proper protections.

Papers released by the High Court suggest the security agency tried to mitigate the problem but coud not because "the task...was too large".

MI5 also misled senior judges by applying for warrants on the basis that data protection obligations were being met - when in fact they were not.

The 10 internal documents, which include letters from the most senior officials inside MI5, including correspondence from director Sir Andrew Parker, reveal breaches of compliance, relating in particular to the storage of citizens' data.

They also show that the spy agency was aware of breaches of compliance over several years, yet failed to take action.

Letters to MI5 from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office (IPCO) - the body responsible for ensuring privacy protections are upheld - refer to "the undoubtedly unlawful manner in which data has been held or handled".

The documents were made public as part of a court case undertaken by civil liberties group Liberty, which is bringing the action against the Home Office.