European Court rules United Kingdom surveillance program violated human rights

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It was followed by similar decisions in the Court of Appeal and High Court, which said the Snooper's Charter did not comply with the European Union ruling.

However, the ECHR ruled that the processes used to share the intelligence with foreign governments was not in violation of privacy or human rights standards.

In their ruling, judges declared there was insufficient monitoring of what information was being collected and that some safeguards were "inadequate".

They concluded that the mass trawling for information by Britain's GCHQ spy agency violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding the right to privacy because there was "insufficient oversight" of the programme.

The Guardian explains that after Snowden exposed the British government's role in citizen surveillance, tapping into communication networks to suck on that massive firehose of data, 14 human rights and privacy groups filed suit against the United Kingdom.

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The court's seven judges also voted 6-1 that Britain's regime for getting data from communications service providers also violated the human rights convention, including its provisions on privacy and on freedom of expression.

The judgement said: "While there is no evidence to suggest that the intelligence services are abusing their powers - on the contrary, the [then British watchdog] observed that the selection procedure was carefully and conscientiously undertaken by analysts, the court is not persuaded that the safeguards governing selection of bearers [internet cables] for interception and the selection of intercepted material for examination are sufficiently robust to provide adequate guarantees against abuse". "It continued: "[the ruling] permits national governments a "wide margin of appreciation" in deciding whether to engage in bulk interception and greenlights vast intelligence sharing with the US National Security Agency (NSA)". The scope for unrestricted snooping "could be capable of painting an intimate picture of a person" through mapping of social networks and communication patterns, browsing and location tracking, and understanding who a person is interacting with, the court said.

A collection of 14 human rights organizations, journalists and privacy groups had told the court that the practices were in violation of human rights.

The court also criticised powers to ask internet companies to hand over "communications data" - the basic technical facts of how people have exchanged information.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said in a statement.

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Following the Snowden revelations, the rules were replaced in November 2016 by the Investigatory Powers Act, a new law that effectively puts mass surveillance powers on a statutory footing.

"Our government has built a surveillance regime more extreme than that of any other democratic nation, abandoning the very rights and freedoms that terrorists want to attack".

Civil liberties groups are set to continuing fighting a number of cases related to surveillance and while rulings have gone against the government, nothing has changed; the Investigatory Powers Act is still the same as it was in 2016 and the government doesn't look to be in any rush to alter it, despite these losses.

"We will push on with our High Court challenge against the Investigatory Powers Act and I'm sure we'll draw on the judgement of today to explain why it means that act is also unlawful", she added.

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