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Rights Groups Take UK Govt. To European Rights Court Over Mass Surveillance

A number of Human rights organizations are taking the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights over its indiscriminate mass surveillance practices.

Privacy International, Bytes for All, Amnesty International, Liberty, and other groups said on Friday
that they filed an appeal last week after a judgment last year found that collecting all Internet traffic flowing in and out of the UK and bulk intelligence sharing with the United States was legal.

National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden had revealed that mass surveillance practices are taking place on an industrial scale - the spying programs TEMPORA and PRISM.

The UK's surveillance court, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, ruled in December that the government's mass surveillance practices were compliant with human rights.

That ruling found that mass surveillance of Internet traffic via fiber optic cables going into and out of the UK, known as TEMPORA, and intelligence sharing regime between the US and UK under PRISM was in principle lawful.

Amnesty International alleges that the Tribunal held considerable portions of the proceedings in secret.

Having exhausted every legal avenue in the UK, and amid increasing signs that the government's legal position is unraveling, the organizations filed the joint application to the Strasbourg Court last week questioning this.

The joint application asserts that UK domestic law, which governs the UK intelligence agencies' interception of communications and its intelligence sharing practices with the USA, is in breach of the human rights to privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Europe's highest court on human rights will also be asked to consider whether provisions in RIPA that afford a higher degree of privacy protections to British residents violate Article 14, which outlaws unlawful discrimination.

The existence of TEMPORA was disclosed by Edward Snowden but the British Government has said it will "neither confirm nor deny" its existence.

Through PRISM, the NSA has gained access to the data and content handled by some of the world's largest Internet companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. While this appeal is pending, GCHQ will retain unfettered access to this material.

The application to the European Court of Human Rights comes after 18 months of litigation between the Government and the applicant NGOs, which exposed significant flaws in UK's legal regime.

by RTT Staff Writer

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