UK court rules that GCHQ unlawfully spied on British citizens

Ever since its surveillance tactics were thrust into the public spotlight, GCHQ has had a lot of questions to answer over its reported spying on British citizens. It hasn't exactly been forthcoming with information, but the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), an independent court set up to keep the UK's secret services in check, has enough evidence of GCHQ's wrongdoings to declare that the agency has been unlawfully snooping on those it's meant to be protecting.

In a ruling published today, the IPT said that GCHQ's access to data that had been originally intercepted by the NSA contravened human rights laws. It turns out that the agency didn't acknowledge that it was collecting information found via the NSA's PRISM and UPSTREAM surveillance programs, which had first been brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The interesting thing to note here is that it's the first time that the IPT has ruled against a security agency in its 15 year history. The court was forced to make another decision after a legal challenge was brought against it by civil liberties groups Liberty, Privacy International, Amnesty International and Bytes for All, after originally ruling that GCHQ's data collection was lawful back in December.

So what happens now? Well, campaigners will now seek clarification on whether their information was collected as part of the NSA's data gathering and then ask to have it deleted. Should that be successful, it could mean anyone who has had personal data unlawfully collected on them can have it removed from GCHQ records.