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GCHQ Bude surveillance listening station Cornwall
GCHQ Bude, a satellite ground station and eavesdropping centre in CornwallSludge G via Flickr / Creative Commons

Paranoid that GCHQ has spied on you? Now you can find out

A new online platform allows anyone to check if the UK intelligence agency has illegally monitored them

In a post-Edward Snowden world, it's pretty likely that worries about faceless men in suits listening in on you aren't just X-Files plotlines. But it's still pretty hard for your average citizen to imagine themselves as surveillance subjects, which is where this new online platform from Privacy International comes in.

The human rights group has created a handy tool for anyone to find out if GCHQ has spied on them. All you need to do is provide your full name, email address and phone number. Privacy International will then do the legwork for you and ask GCHQ if your records were illegally shared by the NSA.  

This is all thanks to a recent ruling by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which has judicial oversight of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6. In a case brought by Privacy International, Bytes for All, Liberty and Amnesty International, the court found that GCHQ had unlawfully accesssed millions of personal communications recorded by the NSA under the now-infamous PRISM programme

Privacy International spokesperson Mike Rispoli told us that you'll probably have to wait "at least a few months" to find out if you've been spied on, but you will "absolutely be notified once we hear back". The organisation says that a thousand people signed up for the service within two hours of its launch, and that it will collate all these queries as a joint group complaint to the IPT. If you find out that you've been illegally spied on, you can seek to have your records deleted.

And if you think you've got a spotless record? Bad news: you've probably been caught up in the surveillance net anyway. "Think of how the mass surveillance programs like the NSA operate and how much internet traffic gets routed through the USA," Rispoli said. "Anybody in the past decade who's used services like Twitter, Google and Facebook have had their information routed through the US."

"We know, thanks to Edward Snowden, that a very large majority of this traffic was intercepted by the NSA. if you've ever used Gmail in the past decade, there's an incredibly high likelihood that your communications was intercepted by the NSA. By default, it shares everything it gets with GCHQ. That creates an incredibly highly likelihood that even if you were not a target, your communications were intercepted by the NSA and unlawfully shared by GCHQ."

Freaked out yet? You can find out if GCHQ has illegally spied on you here