Have a set of judgments today, the European Court of Human Rights found that the mass surveillance program by GCHQ—the United Kingdom’s intelligence agency—violated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which protects privacy and family and freedom of expression. of England. and European cities. And the issue includes intelligence received by the US National Security Agency shared with GCHQ.
The court found that sharing intelligence gathered from mass surveillance—as GCHQ does with the NSA and other members of the “Five eyes” intelligence and security cooperation – does not violate the human rights charter. But the judges warned that using such intelligence sharing to circumvent restrictions on the surveillance of a member’s citizens would be a violation of the treaty.
In judgmentthe judge found that there is insufficient supervision by the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (the British equivalent of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) on the UK’s bulk interception, processing, and surveillance of communications by GCHQ. The judges also found that insufficient safeguards were put in place to govern access to communications data. While the case does not directly affect the US intelligence community, the case could have a ripple effect because of the close ties between the US and UK intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Clothes brought by Big Brother WatchAmnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union, and a number of other civil liberties organizations from Europe and North America, as well as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others. “The decision sends a clear message that similar surveillance programs, such as those conducted by the NSA, are also inconsistent with human rights,” said ACLU attorney Patrick Toomey. “Governments in Europe and the United States alike must take steps to reform mass spying and adopt long-term reforms that truly protect our privacy.”
No damages were awarded, except for the court costs of some of the applicants who brought the suit. And the court did not find that the surveillance itself was illegal. However, the ruling found that an individual’s privacy rights apply from the moment communications and data are captured by surveillance systems—not when they are seen or processed by human analysts. And the judgment also found that surveillance violates freedom of expression because of its powerful effects on journalists.
The court found that the way the UK government collects data from telecommunications service providers is in breach of Article 8 of the ECHR (rights to private life and family). It also found that both the method of bulk interception of communications and the process for obtaining communications metadata from service providers violated Article 10 (freedom of expression) because of “inadequate safeguards in respect of confidential journalistic material.” And of particular concern to the court is the lack of any oversight as to what Internet traffic is collected or what filters are used to determine what traffic is useful.
“While there is no evidence to suggest that the intelligence services are using their powers, the Court is not convinced that the safeguards governing the selection of witnesses for attack and the selection of material submitted for examination are sufficiently powerful to provide adequate guarantees against abuse, “said the judgment of the court. “Of greatest concern… is the absence of strong independent supervision of the choices and search criteria used to filter intercepted communications. “
The parts of the UK law found problematic by the Court are the same parts of the PATRIOT Act in the US that have made the most controversial parts of US mass surveillance. The court rejected the UK government’s claim that the collection of metadata was aimed no further than the collection of the contents of communications. “The court recognizes how revealing metadata can be to people’s lives,” Toomey told Ars. “You can reveal things that the government won’t have access to.”
Checking the lot in and of itself, however, did not find it to be in violation of the license. “At this conclusion, the Court finds that the operation of a regime of mass aggression does not in and of itself violate the Convention,” a spokesperson for the court said in a statement on the case, “but notes that such a regime has to respect established in its constitution. “
While the court’s ruling applied to surveillance procedures set out by the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act of 2000—not the new Investigatory Powers Act passed in 2016, which has yet to take full effect—some in the provisions that are determined to be against the contract are in the new law. Other surveillance cases, including one against the French government’s Intelligence Act of July 24, 2015, are also pending. But the precedent set here will likely force other governments in Europe to reexamine their surveillance laws.