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Judges rule that UK spying doesn't violate human rights

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British spies may be peeking into webcams and modifying internet traffic, but all that is above board -- if you ask the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal, anyway. Its judges have ruled that the Government Communications Headquarters' (GCHQ) intelligence gathering practices aren't violating the European Court of Human Rights' safeguards for free speech and privacy. The Tribunal agrees that unchecked mass data collection would be illegal, but contends that the ways GCHQ selects and preserves that data are reasonable. It doesn't have "carte blanche" to do what it likes, according to the ruling.

Not surprisingly, the civil rights advocates that filed the complaint (including Amnesty UK, Liberty and Privacy International) aren't happy with this verdict. They plan to appeal the decision with the European Court itself, and note that the Tribunal heard the arguments in closed hearings. Liberty contends that the UK is effectively policing itself; much like the US' Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, you're looking at a "secretive" panel determining the legitimacy of equally secretive government activities. Whether or not you believe GCHQ got the scrutiny it deserves, the appeal suggests that officials will have at least a little more explaining to do before they can rest easy.

[Image credit: Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool /Getty Images]

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