UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Ruled Unlawful: What Does Privacy Mean to You?

Two weeks ago the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) gave a landmark ruling against the UK government’s mass surveillance program, stating that it violated human rights and offered “no real safeguards” to the public.  This surveillance programme, according to the Strasbourg court, allowed the British intelligence agencies’ to violate the right to a private and family life with “insufficient oversight” over which communications were chosen for examination. Of equal importance the ECHR found that the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), also known as the Snoopers’ Charter, did not give enough protection to journalistic sources which would violate the rights to freedom of expression guaranteed in UK and EU laws and would discourage whistle-blowing.   In its judgment of the case, Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom (applications nos. 58170/13, 62322/14 and 24960/15), the court concluded that police and security services had breached citizens’ right to privacy by intercepting communications data in bulk, with little oversight of when these powers could be used, just as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had revealed.

In its judgment, the ECHR expressed concern that “intelligence services can search and examine ‘related communications data’ apparently without restriction’ – data that identifies senders and recipients of communications, their location, email headers, web browsing information, IP addresses, and more.” This…

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