Like the U.S., Britain too has reportedly been secretly gathering personal data of millions of its citizens even as the government has been forced to drop a bill that would have allowed it to access people’s mobile phone records and Internet communications, ostensibly to fight terror.

The Guardian on Friday claimed that Britain’s electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, was using a “covertly run operation” set up by the U.S. National Security Administration to collect details of personal communications from some of the biggest Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Skype.

It said it had documents showing GCHQ had access to the NSA’s covert PRISM programme since at least June 2010, and generated 197 intelligence reports from it last year. The programme was established in 2007 to provide “in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information about foreigners overseas” following changes to the U.S. surveillance law introduced by the Bush administration and renewed by President Barack Obama.

“The U.S.-run programme, called PRISM, would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to seek personal material such as e-mails, photos and videos from an Internet company based outside the U.K.,” the paper said.

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