ECHR Rules British Mass Surveillance Regime Violates European Law

  • ECHR Rules British Mass Surveillance Regime Violates European Law

ECHR Rules British Mass Surveillance Regime Violates European Law

'In today's Chamber judgment the European Court of Human Rights held, by five votes to two, that: the bulk interception regime violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life/communications) as there was insufficient oversight both of the selection of Internet bearers for interception and the filtering, search and selection of intercepted communications for examination, and the safeguards governing the selection of "related communications data" for examination were inadequate, ' the Court explains in its announcement on the ruling.

Civil rights groups applauded a European court's ruling against the U.K.'s "Snooper's Charter", its mass surveillance program put in place after September 11, 2001, with a 5-2 vote stating that the country's spying practices were a violation of human rights-and called on other governments to end their own surveillance programs.

"The same underlying problems still apply, and the IP Act has most of the same flaws - flaws found to breach fundamental rights", he told ZDNet.

The landmark ruling was the court's first on the UK's mass surveillance programs, which attracted a high level of criticism after Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, leaked their existence in 2013. However, the ruling did find that individuals' privacy rights applied from the moment communications and data were captured by surveillance systems-not just when they were viewed or processed by human analysts.

But it said such programmes require sufficient oversight to keep the surveillance to what is "necessary in a democratic society".

In contrast, related communications data is capable "of painting an intimate picture of a person" through mapping social networks, location tracking and insight of who they interacted with.

In the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations, three applications from Big Brother Watch, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Amnesty International and nine other human rights charities were joined together and lodged.

In a further victory for the 16 complainants the court ruled that the programme also provided "insufficient safeguards in respect of confidential journalistic material", violating Article 10 of the European convention, which protects freedom of expression and information.

Today's ruling is the latest in a long line that have found against the government's former snooping law, which has since been superseded by the Investigatory Powers Act.

The court also criticised powers to ask internet companies to hand over "communications data" - the basic technical facts of how people have exchanged information.

The case centred on powers given to security services under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), which has since been replaced.

Subsequently, Britain has changed their surveillance laws since the legal challenge began, the government claims that the new legislation contains more privacy protections.

"Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the United Kingdom has adopted the most authoritarian surveillance regime of any Western state, corroding democracy itself and the rights of the British public", said Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch. "This judgement is a vital step towards protecting millions of law-abiding citizens from unjustified intrusion". "However, since the new Investigatory Powers Act arguably poses an ever greater threat to civil liberties, our work is far from over".