British mass surveillance program violated human rights law — EU Court

Postado Setembro 14, 2018

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that some aspects of British surveillance regimes violated provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights that are meant to safeguard Europeans' rights to privacy.

The Guardian reported that the court found the the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had failed to put safeguards in place while surveilling the digital communications, violating Article 8 of the European convention on human rights.

One activity the court decided wasn't illegal, however, was GCHQ's policy of sharing sensitive data with foreign governments.

During an interview with the Guardian, Snowden warned that the practices of UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) were "worse than the USA".

In the ruling, the judges found that there was insufficient oversight through the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal (the United Kingdom equivalent of the US' Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) over the UK's bulk interception, filtering, and search of communications by the GCHQ.

The first two were found to breach the convention, while the latter did not.

The mass spying scheme did "not meet the "quality of law" requirement" and was "incapable of keeping the "interference" to what is "necessary in a democratic society", the ECHR said. 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.

"The related communications data, on the other hand, could reveal the identities and geographic location of the sender and recipient and the equipment through which the communication was transmitted".

"We believe that they can and they must provide us with a targeted surveillance regime rather than a bulk regime that has adequate safeguards to protect our rights - that's very possible for them to do", said Goulding.

A collection of 14 human rights organizations, journalists and privacy groups had told the court that the practices were in violation of human rights. The third group, of 10 human rights organisations, made no claims.

"If the government had its own way, it would have gone on secretly conducting surveillance but finally this was found out and it has been ruled unlawful".

The court did not consider the newer law, as it was not in force at the time of its examination of the case - and so the ruling refers to the system as it was.

The bulk collection itself wasn't the problem and the court ruled British intelligence services are not "abusing their powers". The advocacy groups focused on the power granted by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), which was replaced in 2016 by the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016, a bill that hasn't yet gone into effect.

That said access to retained data must only be granted for cases of serious crime, and that authorisation should come from an independent body, not public authorities. The High Court, whose ruling applied to Part 4 of the Act, gave the government until 1 November to change the law.

"This landmark judgement confirming that the UK's mass spying breached fundamental rights vindicates Mr Snowden's courageous whistleblowing", Silkie Carlo, director of the Big Brother Watch, said in a statement.

"This judgment is a vital step towards protecting millions of law-abiding citizens from unjustified intrusion".

But that argument doesn't convince critics of the Investigatory Powers Act - legislation which those opposed to it have previous labelled as "the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy".