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Rights groups challenge UK cyber-snooping

July 14, 2014

LONDON (AP) — Civil liberties groups took Britain’s spy agencies to court Monday in a bid to limit electronic surveillance, as the government tries to pass legislation to extend snooping powers.

A special court, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, is hearing a challenge to mass online snooping from groups including Amnesty International, Liberty and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The organizations claim the spies’ collection of communications data breaches the rights to private life and freedom of expression.

The rights groups launched their legal action after leaks about cyber-snooping from former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. He revealed details of a program called PRISM, which gives the NSA access to Internet companies’ customer data, and a British operation, TEMPORA, that allows Britain’s electronic spy agency to harvest data from undersea cables.

British authorities have not confirmed the existence of TEMPORA.

Meanwhile, this week Parliament will debate a bill that would force phone and Internet companies to store call and search records for a year.

The government has introduced the emergency legislation in response to an April European Court of Justice ruling that a European Union directive requiring companies to store communications data for up to two years was too broad and a threat to privacy.

Prime Minister David Cameron says the new law does not extend existing surveillance powers, and is needed to protect the country from pedophiles, gangsters and terrorists.

But critics say it seeks to legalize activities that the European court has ruled unlawful.

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