Court: British surveillance violates European law

Legal Compliance

Europe's human rights court handed a partial victory Thursday to civil rights groups that challenged the legality of mass surveillance and intelligence-sharing practices exposed by American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that some aspects of British surveillance regimes violated provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights that are meant to safeguard Europeans' rights to privacy.

Specifically, the court said there wasn't enough independent scrutiny of processes used by British intelligence services to sift through data and communications intercepted in bulk.

The ruling cited a "lack of oversight of the entire selection process" and "the absence of any real safeguards."

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.

But the ruling wasn't all bad for British spies. The court said it is "satisfied" that British intelligence services take their human rights convention obligations seriously "and are not abusing their powers."

The court also gave a green light to procedures British security services use to get intelligence from foreign spy agencies, saying the intelligence-sharing regime doesn't violate the convention's privacy provisions.

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