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ECHR: Mass surveillance Britain was in violation of human rights

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that mass surveillance by intelligence services in Great Britain was partly in conflict with human rights such as the right to privacy. Mass surveillance is allowed, but is subject to conditions.

The case was filed by journalists and civil rights organizations. They oppose three points: the collection of data in bulk, the sharing of information with foreign intelligence services and the obtaining of communication data via providers. These practices were brought to light by the disclosures by Edward Snowden in 2013 about the working methods of the American intelligence service NSA and the British counterpart GHCQ.

According to the ruling was to obtain the data through backdoors at providers is not legal and that is in violation of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This article describes the right to respect for private situations in family and family life. The collection of data in bulk, or mass surveillance, according to the Court was not in violation of the law. Nevertheless, the British intelligence service also violated Article 8 on this point, concludes the human rights court, because there was insufficient supervision of the selections made when collecting data.

Both with the collection of data in bulk and with the acquisition of communication data. through providers, the British intelligence service has also violated Article 10, the right to freedom of expression. That is because there were too few safeguards for dealing with confidential journalistic material. According to the ruling, the sharing of information with foreign intelligence services is not in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights

In a document with questions and answers the Court deals with the question of whether United Kingdom now has to adjust its working method when it comes to gathering intelligence. An answer can not be given on this, because the statement was made on the basis of the law that applied at the time of the events. That was the Investigatory Powers Act from the year 2000. In 2016 a new version of that law was passed, but it is not yet fully in force. The new law provides intelligence services of more powers . The ruling of the Court is binding for a concerned state and can lead to a change in the law, which is therefore not at issue here. The prosecutors also demanded no compensation.

The current ruling was made by the second highest court of the European Court of Human Rights. Both parties can still appeal. In the case of ‘exceptionally high’ such an appeal is honored.

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