In 2014, the world discovered that US security agency NSA had been spying on the communications of millions of its own citizens. But what about over here on the other side of the pond? Has GCHQ been spying on us too? Well, now there's a way you can find out.
Rights group Privacy International has launched a new campaign encouraging people living in the UK to fill out an online form with your personal details, date of birth, phone number, email address and IP address.
The form then generates a claim that can be sent straight to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which is a watchdog for UK security services. According to the charity, if you want to know if UK spy agencies have been spying on your phone calls, emails or the websites you accessed, the IPT is legally required to check and confirm to you whether your details are being held by GCHQ.
Privacy International says that it cannot file the claim on your behalf, because IPT has decreed that every person or organisation concerned they might have been spied on has to make a claim themselves.
So on one hand, it's good to know that you have a right to find out about unlawful spying, but on the other hand, you're going to have to hand over specific personal details about yourself to the IPT, which in theory the government could use to spy on you in the future.
However, this whole venture might well be completely fruitless. Other than the fact that you are simply handing over personal information to the government you clearly mistrust, you won't really be able to get much information out of the GCHQ because the government conveniently changed the laws on hacking recently.
Hacking law change means you won't find much
In May, Privacy International discovered that the UK government amended the Computer Misuse Act to provide a new exception for law enforcement and GCHQ to hack without criminal liability from 5 December 2014 onwards, and that this was done without public consultation or any debates over mass surveillance.
So for example, when you file the claim, the IPT will search to see whether the GCHQ has gathered information about you over the past 12 months. If you did it today, that search would date back to 15 September 2014.
However, since the hacking laws have been changed, any information gathering done by UK security agencies after 5 December 2014 is now perfectly fine, so you will only be allowed to claim for information dating from 15 September 2014 until 5 December 2014.
Still, the charity says that people need to come forward and make the claims, otherwise we can never prove the direct effects of mass surveillance.
"We know it sounds absurd but it's the only way. The IPT can't act by itself, so it needs people to come forward to file complaints. The IPT requires more than your name to attempt to find your communications in GCHQ's massive databases," Privacy International explains on its FAQ page.
"If they do locate your data, and determine it was obtained or retained unlawfully, you can ask them to delete it. Hopefully, if enough people submit claims, we can show how mass surveillance directly affects us all, and we'll be able to get the reform we all need."