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New Information Provides Insight Into Data Collection Practices by UK Spy Agencies

The United Kingdom is known for their cultural obsession with spies and their craft. In fact, the fictional-yet-famous spy, James Bond, was a part of the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as M16. However, the latest news to come out of M16 isn't fictional and it certainly isn't what you'd see in the latest James Bond film.

Massive Database of Personal Data Exposed to Misuse
According to recent reports, most of which have come from a group known as Privacy International, the U.K.'s three topmost spy agencies, M16, M15 and GCHQ, have all been compiling and stockpiling data about British's citizens since sometime in the 1990s.

If that wasn't bad enough on its own, the latest reports released by Privacy International indicate that some of this data, including personal information, was mishandled or misused by the agency. To top it off, it appears that some promient officials may have knew about the misuse of the data as early as 2011.

Original reports of the large-scale storage and misuse of such personal data were first made all the way back in September 2011, where it was published in a once-classified newsletter. The newsletter stated, in part: "We've seen a few instances recently of individual users crossing the line with their database use for instance, looking up addresses in order to send birthday cards, checking passport details to organise personal travel, checking details of family members for personal reasons. Another area of concern is the use of the database as 'convenient' way to check the personal details of colleagues when filling out Service forms on their behalf."

Despite the fact that officials with the Secret Intelligence Service obviously knew about the issues with mishandling and misusing information, this data wasn't made available until March 2015. Even then, the information was disseminated to the public via a report by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which also acknowledged a number of other shortcomings related to the issue. Such shortcomings included the absence of any sort of legal repercussions pertaining the misuse of bulk sets of personal information as well as the lack of any real privacy standards.

Millie Graham Wood, legal officer with Privacy International, released on a statement on the organization's behalf by saying, in part: "This data is integrated into databases that could be used to build detailed profiles about all of us. The agencies themselves admit that the majority of data collected relates to individuals who are not a threat to national security or suspected of a crime."

Who is Privacy International

Privacy International was originally formed in 1990 in the city of London, where they currently maintain their primary headquarters. Working for human rights across the globe, the organization started investigating the three spy agencies after Edward Snowden clued the public into mass spying operations targeting the general public in 2013. The group has since released approximately 80 previously classified or top secret documents from M16, M15 and GCHQ. To find out more information on Privacy International, please visit their official website at


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