ECHR-UK: GCHQ surveillance powers violate human rights

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GCHQ surveillance powers violate human rights
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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that various aspects of the surveillance powers used by the UK's signals intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), violate the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

The judgment has been celebrated by the organisations and campaigners that brought the case to the court, but they also note that it contains numerous shortcomings.

Regarding the mass surveillance conducted by GCHQ - in which it intercepts telecoms traffic from underseas cables that come ashore in the UK - the court ruled that the way information is selected for examination is not subject to safeguards that "provide adequate guarantees against abuse."

Furthermore, the court found that this mass surveillance programme interferes with the freedom of expression of journalists as GCHQ analysts are able to "search and examine without restriction both the content and the related communications data of... intercepted communications," with no due regard to journalistic confidentiality.

An analysis by Privacy International, one of the organisations that brought the case, makes clear the positive and negative points of the judgment: UK mass interception law violates human rights - but the fight against mass surveillance continues (PI, link)

Official documentation

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