THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS (ECHR) is presiding over a landmark case brought to it by loads of privacy groups as they continue to challenge the lawfulness of UK surveillance and the mass surveillance preferences of its intelligence agencies.
The case comes with the involvement of Amnesty International, Privacy International (which has history here), Liberty and organisations including the Open Rights Group and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Campaigners are calling the case "a watershed moment for people's privacy and freedom of expression across the world"
It is also one of many such efforts to get to the bottom of what the hell the UK thinks it is playing at when it swoops into people's digital lives and stomps all over them. In a statement, the groups took us back to the time that Edward Snowden did his leaky thing, and we learned some bits about GCHQ.
"The case is the latest stage in a protracted effort from the organisations to challenge the UK's extremely wide-ranging surveillance powers following startling revelations by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden," they write.
"In 2013, Snowden revealed how the UK's GCHQ intelligence agency was secretly intercepting and processing millions of private communications of ordinary people on a daily basis (the "Tempora" programme), and - without a clear legal foundation or proper safeguards - sharing data with the USA's National Security Agency, as well as other countries' intelligence agencies".
This is not just a problem for the UK. Privacy International et al said that as the internet and its cables flow globally, so does the problem, and the other parties to the case are pointing out that the UK's surveillance laws and practices affect the privacy and other rights of millions of people around the world, in part because major internet cables run from and to UK territory.
Also up for inspection is the Investigatory Powers Act, and how comfortably blanket data gathering sits alongside UK human rights obligations.
"This case concerns the UK, but its significance is global. It's a watershed moment for people's privacy and freedom of expression across the world," said Nick Williams, Amnesty International's senior legal counsel.
"By bringing together human rights defenders and journalists from four different continents, it also serves to highlight the dangers mass surveillance pose to the vital work of countless organisations and to individuals who expose human rights abuses and defend those at risk." µ
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