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Rights groups say UK conducts mass cyber-snooping

LONDON (AP) -- Privacy groups say Britain's electronic spy agency is using loosely defined rules to intercept online communications between Britons who use U.S.-based platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

A document by Charles Farr, Britain's top counterterrorism official, says data sent on those services is classed as “external” rather than “internal” communications because the companies are based outside Britain.

Groups including Privacy International published the document Tuesday. It was written in response to a legal action by civil liberties groups seeking to curb cyber-spying.

Britain's electronic intelligence agency, GCHQ, has broad powers to intercept communications outside the country, but needs a warrant to monitor British communications.

In the document, Farr says some internal communications are intercepted under the external rules, but they “cannot be read, looked at or listened to.”

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