GCHQ Headquarters
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GCHQ 'exploiting international nature of web'

GCHQ collected 39 billion separate pieces of information in one day, according to the Guardian's whistleblower Edward Snowden. That's the scale of its operation which takes data from the web, tapping into the huge communications cables that cross the UK.

The BBC's security correspondent Gordon Corera said that information is stored for "a limited period", and material they want to look at, out of the huge amount they collect, can then be accessed.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former foreign secretary and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, told the Today programme that he expects there will be a written report "over the next day or so" from GCHQ. He said that the "crucial question" is not how much data could they theoretically collect, but what they then gain access to.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights organisation Liberty, said she was "shocked but not surprised". She said that GCHQ are "exploiting" the fact that the internet is so international in nature, adding that what's holding them back from going further is technological capability, not ethics.

First broadcast on the Today programme on Saturday 22 June.

  • 22 Jun 2013