Privacy groups raise £20K for surveillance legal case against UK Government


The Government could face legal action over claims it used the PRISM programme to snoop on UK and EU internet users, following a successful fundraising campaign.

Privacy advocates Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group, English PEN and German internet campaigner Constance Kurz needed to raise 20,000 to cover the cost of pursuing legal action against the UK Government.

While Parliament has failed to debate these issues, the public are personally prepared to donate money from their own pockets to ensure their rights are protected.

After just two days of fundraising, the group has hit its target and is now seeking further donations to help raise the profile of its cause and cover general campaign costs.

The collective has dubbed its campaign Privacy not PRISM, and claims its legal action is being pursued on behalf of all internet users across the UK and EU.

"The revelations that the Government routinely taps, stores and sifts through our internet data have demonstrated an astonishing lack of legal protection for our rights above all, the right to privacy," the group state in their website's manifesto.

"This doesn't just affect UK citizens: most of the EU's external internet traffic is routed through the UK. That's why we're taking the Government to court. We've raised our legal fees, but you can still help fund our campaign costs," the statement continues.

The crux of the case hinges on the claim that, before details of the PRISM and Tempora surveillance programmes came to light last summer, neither the Government nor regulators informed the public about how their activities were being monitored.

"We believe this is a breach of your right to privacy. The European Court of Human Rights can require a fairer system to be put in place," the group said.

Its decision to go down the legal action route appears to have been prompted by the Government's alleged response to their demands for new privacy laws.

"The Government refused and invited us to submit a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, but the Tribunal is a creature of the very statutory regime which has failed and would not offer an effective remedy," the group claim.

"It is unable to rule that the legislative regime breaches our privacy rights, it is conducted largely in secret and there is no right to appeal."

As a result, the group said it is taking its case directly to the European Court of Human Rights, who will be asked to decide if the Government's alleged surveillance activities and existing legislation offer sufficient protection to UK and EU web users.

Jim Killock, executive director of privacy campaigners the Open Rights Group, said the speed of response to its request for funds highlights the "overwhelming concern" web users have about surveillance.

"This busts the myth that the UK is unconcerned. While Parliament has failed to debate these issues, the public are personally prepared to donate money from their own pockets to ensure their rights are protected, and the Governments' secret surveillance schemes are held to account," Killock added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.