European court rules against Britain over mass surveillance
European court rules against Britain over mass surveillance
American whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen June 28 2016. Scanpix Denmark Mathias Loevgreen Bojesen /via REUTERS
15 September, 2018, 14:22
'The Court also held, by six votes to one, that: the regime for obtaining communications data from communications service providers violated Article 8 as it was not in accordance with the law; and that both the bulk interception regime and the regime for obtaining communications data from communications service providers violated Article 10 of the Convention as there were insufficient safeguards in respect of confidential journalistic material.
Aspects of the policy, the court declared, breached two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) - the right to private life (Article 8) and the right to free expression (Article 10).
By related communications, the court said it meant the collection of details like who calls who, from where and when - rather than the content of the communications.
It noted that European Union law required that any regime allowing access to data held by communications service providers had to be limited to the objective of combating "serious crime", and that access be subject to prior review by a court or independent administrative body.
Because there was not enough independent oversight of the search and selection processes, there was a violation of the code. 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.
As the European Union legal order is integrated into that of the United Kingdom and has primacy where there is a conflict with domestic law, the Government had conceded in a recent domestic case that a very similar scheme introduced by the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 was incompatible with fundamental rights in European Union law because it did not include these safeguards.
But it said the "interference" needed to be limited to what is "necessary in a democratic society".
The court had also been asked to consider whether there had been violations of other parts of the convention, but found that the arguments put forward for a number of these challenges were inadmissible.
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.
Subsequently, Britain has changed their surveillance laws since the legal challenge began, the government claims that the new legislation contains more privacy protections.
The Executive Director of the ORG, Jim Killock, said that the UK Government had increased its surveillance powers since 2013 and continued to violate people's right to privacy. "This judgement is a vital step towards protecting millions of law-abiding citizens from unjustified intrusion".
Finally, this judgement only applies to the previous regime and not the new Investigatory Powers Act - although the latter is seen by many as even more controversial.
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