(Bloomberg) -- Lawyers for U.K. spy agencies said at the start of a trial over privacy concerns that the bulk interception of communications is critical in protecting the country against terrorism.

Without the ability to collect mass data, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ "would be less effective in protecting the U.K. against threats such as terrorism, cyber threats or espionage," government lawyers said in court documents responding to a suit from Privacy International, an advocacy group that’s seeking to clarify whether the U.K. government has been acting lawfully.

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