Mass data collection by UK Government breached human rights, judges conclude

Written by Josh May on 18 October 2016 in News

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal concluded that the harvesting of some communications data was incompatible with the ECHR

Data - Image credit: Janet McKnight via Flickr

British intelligence agencies breached the European Convention on Human Rights through their mass collection of data, a group of judges has ruled. 

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal concluded that the harvesting of some communications data was incompatible with Article 8 of the convention, which upholds citizens’ right to a private life.

The ruling relates to 17 years of activities up to 2015, when the UK Government put in place new guidance for how information should be treated and collected.

Privacy International, which brought the case against the UK Government, said it was “a long overdue indictment of UK surveillance agencies riding roughshod over our democracy and secretly spying on a massive scale”.

“The public and parliament deserve an explanation as to why everyone’s data was collected for over a decade without oversight in place and confirmation that unlawfully obtained personal data will be destroyed,” the group added.

The UK Government pointed out that its new regime had been deemed compatible with the ECHR, and that it was updating the laws around intelligence agencies through the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The powers available to the security and intelligence agencies play a vital role in protecting the UK and its citizens.

“We are therefore pleased the tribunal has confirmed the current lawfulness of the existing bulk communications data and bulk personal dataset regimes.

“Through the investigatory powers bill, the government is committed to providing greater transparency and stronger safeguards for all of the bulk powers available to the agencies.”

But opposition parties have attacked the Government in the wake of the case.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “No one is above the law and the security services must be held to account on this.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael added: “Allowing the state to collect endless amounts of personal data is not just a gross invasion of a privacy, it is a waste of precious resources…

“Mass spying on the British people should be replaced with targeted surveillance of specific individuals suspected of wrongdoing.”

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