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United Kingdom mass surveillance broke human rights convention, European court rules

United Kingdom mass surveillance broke human rights convention, European court rules

But it dismissed claims that Britain further violated the privacy of those on whom it snooped by sharing intelligence with foreign governments. The judges also found that there were insufficient safeguards put in place to govern access to communications data.

The case, brought by a number of human rights and journalism organisations, is one of many challenges launched after the United States whistleblower, former NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations that GCHQ was secretly intercepting communications traffic via fibre-optic undersea cables.

The UK's bulk interception powers, exposed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, have been found to be illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.

The GCHQ programme was revealed by American whistle-blower Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) operative, as part of his sensational leaks on USA spying.

The court's decision does not prohibit governments from sharing information with other countries, because there was no evidence that part had been abused.

Among the more than one dozen groups that took the case to Strasbourg were the London-based Big Brother Watch organization, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and former Guardian reporter Alice Ross.

'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.

The ruling cited a "lack of oversight of the entire selection process" and "the absence of any real safeguards". ECHR judges wrote, "In view of the potential chilling effect that any perceived interference with the confidentiality of journalists' communications and, in particular, their sources might have on the freedom of the press, the Court found that the bulk interception regime was also in violation of article 10".

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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.

"The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 replaced large parts of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which was the subject of this challenge", she said.

But that argument doesn't convince critics of the Investigatory Powers Act - legislation which those opposed to it have previous labelled as "the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy".

"The government will give careful consideration to the court's findings".

Civil liberties campaigners who brought the case hailed the judgment as a landmark victory against the mass surveillance that governments have defended as an important tool in fighting terrorism.

"An Investigatory Powers Commissioner has also been created to ensure robust independent oversight of how these powers are used".

Silkie Carlo, of Big Brother Watch, added: "This landmark judgment confirming that the UK's mass spying breached fundamental rights vindicates Mr Snowden's courageous whistleblowing".

But Jim Killock of Open Rights Group - one of the bodies behind the challenge - said: "Viewers of the BBC drama, Bodyguard, may be shocked to know that the United Kingdom actually has the most extreme surveillance powers in a democracy".


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