UK surveillance activities have been challenged at the ECtHR

By EDRi · October 9, 2013

Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, EDRi-member Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch and English PEN, together with German internet "hacktivist" and academic Constanze Kurz, have launched a legal challenge to the UK’s internet surveillance activities before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), on behalf in all Internet users in UK and US.

The challengers consider the large surveillance programs such as Prism (NSA program) and Tempora (UK program) are in breach of the Right to Privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The contestants argue that the law and practice in the UK do not ensure that interferences with that right are proportionate and in accordance with adequate and published legal standards.

“Recent disclosures that the government routinely taps, stores and sifts through our internet data have alarmed experts and internet users alike. It is alleged that the government has used the US’s PRISM programme to access data on British citizens stored by US internet corporations. Through its own TEMPORA programme, the government is alleged to tap into the sub-ocean cables that carry the UK’s and the EU’s internet activities around the world and stores and sifts through that data, even if it is an email or a call between two British or EU citizens. Furthermore, the UK has granted the US National Security Agency unlimited access to this data.

These practices appear to have been authorized by government ministers on a routine ‘rolling’ basis, in secret. Existing oversight mechanisms (the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal) have failed. The legislation that is supposed to balance our rights with the interests of the security services is toothless,” the applicants say.

Initially, the applicants wrote to the UK Government on 3 July 2013 announcing that a judicial review challenge would be brought. The Government told them they had to make a complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (a tribunal that hears complaints against the intelligence services in secret). But, as in the case of Kennedy v UK the European Court of Human Rights ruled that applicants were not required to complain to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal before making an application to Strasbourg, the Applicants have issued proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights, which will determine whether UK law breaches international law.

The applicants are asking the Court to declare that UK’s internet surveillance practices are disproportionate and to order the UK to adopt internet surveillance practices that recognise the rights to privacy.

New laws are necessary that require the surveillance to be proportionate, taht are overseen by judicial authorities acting in public and by adequately resourced and empowered regulators and that they allow for the notification of persons affected by the surveillance.

The organizers raised £20,000 in less than two days, to cover legal costs, but they are still accepting donations that will be used for awareness raising activities.

Legal challenge to UK Internet surveillance (3.10.2013)…

Privacy not Prism