Liberty, Amnesty, Big Brother Watch, Privacy International & Others Challenge UK Government on mass surveillance at European Court of Human Rights

Last week, I was in Strasbourg for a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights for Liberty & others’ challenge to the UK Government’s bulk interception regime as exposed in the Snowden documents.

Programs revealed in the Snowden documents like ‘Tempora’ allowed GCHQ to intercept and store a back-up of all communications entering and leaving the UK via fibre-optic cables, for retrospective analysis.

The challenge was launched in 2013 by multiple NGOs including 10 human rights organisations from around the world, including Liberty, plus the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Big Brother Watch, and others.

We are confident that the Court will find the UK’s mass interception regime incompatible with ECHR rights – the human rights framework exists to protect populations from exactly this type of state abuse.

You can read Liberty’s blog about the case here.

You can read our press release here.

You can watch a video of the full hearing here.

 

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Giving evidence on the Edward Snowden revelations at the German Bundestag

On 1 December 2016, I gave oral evidence to Germany’s Bundestag Committee of Inquiry on the subject of international mass surveillance, as revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

This is the only major over-arching inquiry into Snowden’s revelations of NSA/international mass surveillance. The Committee requested evidence on what the UK’s Agencies have been up to and what the recent legislative process (the Investigatory Powers Act) had been like.

It was a good opportunity to reaffirm that the UK’s new surveillance legislation is not compliant with human rights law and only entrenches and extends, rather than remedies, mass surveillance. It sets a dangerous precedent.

The video of my oral evidence is here, and a transcript is posted below:

 

 

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How the UK Government can hack your personal data

Originally published by Mashable, 18th February 2017

By Gianluca Mezzofiore

 

From the moment you set foot on British soil, your personal data could easily be accessed, or even hacked, by the government.

New invasive legislation has been dubbed by critics as one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.

The Snoopers’ Charter — aka the Investigatory Powers Act — was passed into law at the end of last year. It arguably removes your right to online privacy.

In short, it forces internet companies to keep bulk records of all the websites you visit for up to a year and allows the UK government to coerce tech companies to hand over your web history with a retention notice and remove encryption, upon request.

If you think all of this sounds rather alarming, it’s because it is.

So what happens if you’re an unsuspecting visitor blissfully unaware of mass surveillance in the UK? Here’s a provisional guide:

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The Snooper’s Charter passed into law this week. Our message to Government – see you in court.

By Silkie Carlo

Originally published on The Independent, 19 November 2016

The fact that you’re on this website is – potentially – state knowledge. Service providers must now store details of everything you do online for 12 months – and make it accessible to dozens of public authorities

This week a law was passed that silently rips privacy from the modern world. It’s called the Investigatory Powers Act.

Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the British state has achieved totalitarian-style surveillance powers – the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. It now has the ability to indiscriminately hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population.

The hundreds of chilling mass surveillance programmes revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 were – we assumed – the result of a failure of the democratic process. Snowden’s bravery finally gave Parliament and the public the opportunity to scrutinise this industrial-scale spying and bring the state back into check.

But, in an environment of devastatingly poor political opposition, the Government has actually extended state spying powers beyond those exposed by Snowden – setting a “world-leading” precedent.

The fact that you’re on this website is – potentially – state knowledge. Service providers must now store details of everything you do online for 12 months – and make it accessible to dozens of public authorities.

What does your web history look like? Does it reveal your political interests? Social networks? Religious ideas? Medical concerns? Sexual interests? Pattern of life?

What might the last year of your internet use reveal?

Government agencies have even won powers to hack millions of computers, phones and tablets en masse, leaving them vulnerable to further criminal attacks.

You might think that you have nothing to hide, and therefore nothing to fear. In that case, you may as well post your email and social media login details in the comments below.

But I don’t think we do feel that blasé about our privacy – we cherish our civil liberties. Everyone has a stake in guarding our democracy, protecting minorities from suspicionless surveillance, defending protest rights, freedom of the press, and enjoying the freedom to explore and express oneself online. These freedoms allow our thoughts, opinions and personalities to flourish and develop – they are the very core of democracy.

Has any country in history given itself such extensive surveillance powers and remained a rights-respecting democracy? We need not look too far back – or overseas to see the risks of unbridled surveillance. In recent years, the British state has spied on law-abiding environmental activists, democratically elected politicians, victims of torture and police brutality, and hundreds of journalists.

In fact, as the Bill finally passed on Wednesday evening, I was training a group of British and American journalists in how to protect themselves from state surveillance – not just from Russia or Syria, but from their own countries.

When Edward Snowden courageously blew the whistle on mass surveillance he warned that, armed with such tools, a new leader might “say that ‘because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power.’ And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it”.

The US finds itself with a President-elect who has committed to monitoring all mosques, banning all Muslims, investigating Black Lives Matter activists and deporting two to three million people. And with the ushering into law of the UK-US free trade in mass surveillance, MPs may have a lot to answer for.

Liberty and its members fought tooth and nail against this new law from its inception to the moment it was passed. That fight is not yet over. Our message to Government: see you in court.

Silkie Carlo is the policy officer at Liberty