THREE UK PRIVACY GROUPS have collaborated to legally challenge the government communications surveillance organisation GCHQ and denounce the illegality of its practices.
GCHQ is the UK version of the US National Security Agency (NSA). While the NSA has PRISM, GCHQ is said to have a system called Tempora that does the same, except a lot closer to home.
The groups Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group and English PEN are working with a German campaigner in this effort, which saw them file papers at the European Court of Human Rights this week bringing an action against the UK Government.
"The laws governing how internet data is accessed were written when barely anyone had broadband access and were intended to cover old fashioned copper telephone lines," said Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles.
"Parliament did not envisage or intend those laws to permit scooping up details of every communication we send, including content, so it's absolutely right that GCHQ is held accountable in the courts for its actions."
While the groups initially looked to the UK courts for support, the UK government said that this was not appropriate and pushed them towards a secret tribunal.
The groups did not consider this appropriate and they turned to Europe.
A solicitor working on the case said that the parties want GCHQ to admit that what it has done is bad, and is detrimental to personal privacy. The groups hope that the European Court of Human Rights will address their complaint soon.
"We are asking the court to declare that unrestrained surveillance of much of Europe's internet communications by the UK Government, and the outdated regulatory system that has permitted this, breach our rights to privacy. This is not something the secret investigatory powers tribunal can do," said Daniel Carey, solicitor at Deighton Pierce Glynn.
"Indeed, it is precisely the sort of case that we need the European Court of Human Rights for. We are asking for the case to be dealt with on a priority basis, so I am hopeful that it will be formally communicated to the UK Government within a period of weeks. After that, the timetable will be determined by the court." µ
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