Privacy Group Complaint Says Telecoms Giants ‘Colluded’ With GCHQ Snooping

surveillance cyber crime, cyber intelligence

BT, Verizon and Level 3 amongst those included in a Privacy International complaint with the OECD

The furore surrounding GCHQ and NSA snooping has spread further, as a privacy group today announced it had filed a complaint against providers that allegedly worked with the UK intelligence agency to tap fibre cables delivering data in and out of the country.

Privacy International lodged its complaint with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the UK against a slew of big-name telecoms companies, including BT, Verizon Enterprise, Vodafone Cable, Viatel, Level 3 and Interoute.

GCHQ collaboration

GCHQ doughnutThe group believes the companies may have violated a number of OECD guidelines on human rights, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression, by giving GCHQ access to their fibre-optic cables. It had already written to the providers, but received no response.

Privacy International now wants a formal investigation, and for the companies to come clean about how they collaborated with GCHQ on snooping programmes, like the cable tapping Tempora project.

It also wants the firms to “cease any voluntary compliance with GCHQ”.

“With each passing day, the public finds out more and more how private companies are colluding with governments to operate mass surveillance programs that intercept our daily phone calls, text messages, emails, and personal data,” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.

“It is unconscionable to think that the companies that carry our most personal information either refuse to stand up for us, or remain silent when our rights are violated. Far from being coerced, it appears some of the companies have gone well beyond their legal responsibility by colluding with GCHQ on its Tempora program.”

A BT spokesperson said: “We shall study details of any complaint we receive, but we are clear that matters of national security are for governments, not telecommunications providers. As a company, we comply with the law.”

The other companies included in the complaint had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.