US spy programme raises privacy fears in the UK

Internet companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft have denied involvement in a secret programme

If you are online in Britain, chances are you are with an American company.

Now the US government has confirmed it has powers to gather information on us in a way it would not with its own citizens.

In the UK, campaigners say it is a spying programme that challenges our privacy.

Yesterday, the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed the following about the American programme:

  • Relates to the "acquisition of foreign intelligence"

  • Applies to "non-US persons located outside the United States"

  • Purpose is "to protect our nation"

Read: Intelligence chief: Surveillance targets non-US citizens

Firms know this is a hot issue. Just look at this new Microsoft advertisement which proclaims "your privacy is our priority".

Legislators also know this is a key concern. In Brussels, a new Internet privacy law is now being debated. But the powers held by America could undermine all that.

It is the USA that has jurisdiction over the most powerful concentration of Internet firms in the world. That means that assurances, and even laws, elsewhere can be overshadowed. It is the ultimate confirmation that even in cyberspace there is only one superpower.

ITV News has approached some of the Internet firms about the allegations. Here are their responses: