The European Court of Human Rights will soon decide whether British mass surveillance is lawful, as an alliance of human rights organizations seeks to overrule a judgement by the UK surveillance court.
A joint appeal was filed by groups including Privacy International, Amnesty, and Liberty in response to a ruling in December by the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which found that mass surveillance of internet traffic going in and out of the country, and an intelligence sharing regime between the US and UK, was lawful.
Although the UK has ruled that such mass surveillance is lawful, campaigners believe it may breach Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which enshrine the rights to privacy and freedom of expression respectively. Privacy International and the other groups are seeking a ruling from ECHR that industrial scale mass surveillance violates human rights law.
Their appeal, which was filed last week, also follows a related ruling in February that the intelligence sharing regime between Britain and the US was unlawful for seven years until December 2014. It marked the first time the IPT has ever upheld a complaint relating to the UK’s intelligence agencies since its establishment in 2000.
The tribunal said that the government’s regulations breached the human rights of people in the UK, because the public was not made aware that safeguards were in place via a series of policies governing the intelligence sharing regime. The government was forced to disclose some details of the policies during the legal challenge, which revealed that Britain’s intelligence agencies can request or receive access to bulk data from foreign agencies such as the NSA without a warrant.