Privacy Bodies Take GCHQ Snooping Fight To EU Court


Complaints lodged with European Court of Human Rights as the Snowden leaks fallout spreads

Upset at a lack of transparency amongst UK courts, privacy bodies are taking their legal claims against GCHQ’s widespread snooping to the European Court of Human Rights.

Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group, English PEN and German internet activist Constanze Kurz have filed papers with the courts over the GCHQ’s various surveillance operations.

Shutterstock - © Petar Paunchev - surveillance

GCHQ faces another court battle

Leaked documents from Edward Snowden showed the intelligence agency was tapping fibre cables coming in and out of the UK, whilst working with the US National Security Agency (NSA) on the PRISM programme, which collated data from major Internet companies.

It was claimed GCHQ could collect more than 21 petabytes of data a day, but MPs cleared the agency of any legal wrongdoing earlier this year.

Privacy International has already launched its case, but it will be heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, where cases are held in secret and there is no need for the court to justify its decisions.

That wasn’t good enough for Big Brother Watch and its allies. “The laws governing how internet data is accessed were written when barely anyone had broadband access and were intended to cover old fashioned copper telephone lines,” said Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch.

“Parliament did not envisage or intend those laws to permit scooping up details of every communication we send, including content, so it’s absolutely right that GCHQ is held accountable in the courts for its actions.”

Shhh! Don’t look at our whistleblowers quiz!