The European Court of Human Rights has slammed UK and Swedish legislators for their surveillance laws. In both cases, judges found a violation of the Fundamental Rights of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, most judges declared it legal for the British to obtain data from friendly secret services.
The judges decided that the mass spying of communications data regulated by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in 2000 violated the fundamental right to family life and privacy (Article 8 ECHR). The law allowed data streams to tap on submarine cables and became known as the Tempora program through the revelations of Edward Snowden. The judges also condemned the acquisition of data through internet providers. In addition, the RIPA, which was replaced by the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) in 2016, would reduce the rights of an independent press as guaranteed in Article 10 of the Convention.
Lack of control measures
Although preventive wiretapping by the secret services is not fundamentally problematic, judges write in a judgment issued after years of disputes. But measures of decisive control were missing. According to the verdict, encroachment on fundamental rights requires a kind of “end-to-end supervision”. A body independent of the executive had to decide in advance how to tap the data about the measurement, search terms, the so-called selectors had to be investigated and an effective follow-up.
The London organization Privacy International, along with civil rights and journalist organizations from three continents, sued in the British proceedings. One of the plaintiffs is CCC spokeswoman Constanz Kurz.
Privacy International sees itself confirmed by Tuesday’s decision. Above all, the requirements necessary to monitor Secret Service activities have been expanded compared to the court’s earlier ruling, the organization writes. According to Privacy International, the need for “end-to-end oversight” is important in intelligence surveillance, not just for UK lawmakers. The organization is also suing the successor law IPA.
However, most judges did not comply with civil rights activists’ request to see agreements between the five eye states (the Secret Service Alliance of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and other agreements as violations. Of fundamental rights. Here the Chamber decided by 12 votes to 5 that there are sufficiently clear rules for the transfer of data from other services. The judges emphasized, among other things, the interception of the Communications Commissioner and the role of the investigative power tribal. Twelve of the 14 judges believed that improper questioning and fraud of their own laws could be avoided in this way.
The five members of the Chamber disagreed in a separate vote and warned that the establishment of rules alone was not enough; Here, too, explicit mechanisms were needed to control potential misuse.
Decision against FRA activities
The Swedish Center for Rat Visa had to wait even longer for the British plaintiff and his international partners to decide on his case. The civil rights organization filed a lawsuit against the Signal Intelligence Act on 14 July 2008 directly in Strasbourg.
Even in the case of the Swedish Signal Intelligence Act, judges criticized the lack of effective control of large-scale encroachments on fundamental rights, mainly because of surveillance measures. Not only the technique of supervisors, but also the means of supervision should be adapted to the possibilities arising from the new technology, he warned.
In short, there is a lack of erasure routines for fixed mass data and controls for transfer of data by the Swedish Secret Service FRA to foreign services. The subsequent general control of surveillance is also contrary to the fundamental rights of judgment. Centrum für Ratwisa announced that the ruling, which has been won in a decade, is a signal not only to its own legislature, but also to the requirements of secret service control throughout Europe. The allusion to the German legislature, which has just reorganized the BND control overturned by the Constitutional Court, comes as a judge of many critics, too late, inadequate.