Is BT handing over data on Brits in bulk?

phone_exchangeLast year, the Guardian published an order under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act made to Verizon, which made clear that the NSA was collecting details of phone calls made by American citizens not on a targeted basis, but in bulk.

We have a simple question – is the same happening here?

Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, our Director raised this issue and revealed that BT had refused to deny that it hands over data in bulk:

“Late last night I received a letter from British Telecom refusing to deny that they are handing over information in bulk on thousands or millions of British citizens and that mirrors a refusal to deny the same situation in a parliamentary answer received by Mr Davis.”

“My concerns is that there is the activity going on under the Telecommunications Act that is unsupervised and that is why BT cannot publicly refuse that they are handing over information in bulk.”

“I asked BT categorically, “Does BT provide data in bulk on thousands or millions of customers who are not individually named in a RIPA notice to the UK Government or its agencies and, if so, under what legal authority?” I received absolutely no substantive answer to that question and I cannot imagine, given the severity of what that entails, why they could not deny that.

As Dr Julian Huppert noted, “Presumably, if they were not doing it, they would be legally allowed to say, “No, we’re not doing it”.”

A Parliamentary Question tabled by David Davis MP also did not contain a denial:

Mr David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether she has given directions under Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 to the providers of telecommunications services for the acquisition of data in bulk relating to (a) thousands and (b) millions of people. [186135]

James Brokenshire[holding answer 4 February 2014]:Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 states that the Secretary of State may issue directions in the interests of national security and, as with the practice of previous Governments, we do not comment on security matters.


So what is going on under Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act?

As Sir Mark Waller, Intelligence Services Commissioner, told the same committee hearing: “There is no statutory oversight of that section.”



  1. Anon
    20th March 2014

    What about all the access to NHS patient data that BT has? Are these data being handed over too?

  2. Anonymous
    20th March 2014

    I personally think this NSAGate has the potential to be far worse than Watergate ever was.

  3. Anonymous
    23rd March 2014

    What about other landline providers? Virgin? Any of the mobile operators?

  4. Ed
    24th March 2014

    2004..Previous BT customer and subsequently victim of Met phone tapping and covert surveillance after accusing neighbour of racial harrassment. Now a victim of OS and EMF harrasment…. Believe my medical records are being accessed on a regular basis by third party…

    • Anon
      1st April 2014

      If you believe your medical records are being accessed by a third party (someone that should not be accessing them) then you can request a copy of your PDS (personal demographic service) data. The HSCIC (Health and Social Care Information Centre) is now responsible for these data and you can contact them to request a copy.

      The report shows the name of anyone accessing your records. It logs every time your GP or someone at your GP surgery accesses your records. It also logs everyone else such as administrative staff or others who accessed your PDS records. If you are not sure who the people are you can take the report to your GP and ask if the names are staff at the surgery and you can ask the HSCIC to explain any others on the report that you cannot identify.

  5. Anono
    24th March 2014

    > I personally think this NSAGate has the potential to be far worse than Watergate ever was.
    It IS worse. This one is far more broader than Watergate.

  6. alan
    4th April 2014

    Is BT handing over data?, naturally. Government does all it can to ensure government and it’s shareholders prosper. In order to service the country, Britain (the corporation that is, not the population), such queries are proportional to profitability. If data gathering negatively effects the countries profits or potential to profit then BT will be held accountable. Presumably some amicable financial scam such as further austerity ( fancy term for stealing more money) will be played out. Once one understands that Britain, country does not mean people then debates concerning law,legalities or right and wrong over data handling are not such an issue, except for the chattel, that is.