European court says Britain’s mass surveillance program violates citizen rights
Europe’s top rights court ruled Thursday that Britain’s program of mass surveillance, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden as part of his sensational leaks on US spying, violated people’s right to privacy.
Ruling in the case of Big Brother Watch and Others versus the UK, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, said the interception of journalistic material also violated the right to freedom of information.
The case was brought by a group of journalists and rights activists who believe that their data may have been targeted.
The court ruled that the existence of the surveillance program “did not in and of itself violate the convention” but noted “that such a regime had to respect criteria set down in its case-law.”
They concluded that the mass trawling for information by Britain’s GCHQ spy agency violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights because there was “insufficient oversight” of the program.
The court found the oversight to be doubly deficient, in the way in which the GCHQ selected internet providers for intercepting data and then filtered the messages, and the way, in which intelligence agents selected which data to examine.
It determined that the regime covering how the spy agency obtained data from internet and phone companies was “not in accordance with the law.”
In a further victory for the 16 complainants the court ruled that the program also provided “insufficient safeguards in respect of confidential journalistic material,” violating Article 10 of the European convention, which protects freedom of expression and information.
But it dismissed claims that Britain further violated the privacy of those, on whom it snooped by sharing intelligence with foreign governments.