Amnesty International takes Gov to court over spying


Amnesty International is taking the government to the European Court of Human Rights over its mass surveillance of UK citizens.

The organisation claims the government's practice of mass surveillance goes against human rights, and has issued the legal challenge with another nine bodies.

All object to the government's methods of interception, collection, inspection, distribution and retention of communications "without any judicial authorisation," their filing said.

Their complaint is based on revelations leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed information on secret US data collection programmes like PRISM, collecting communications data including emails, text messages, phone calls and social media without permission.

The court filing mentioned Tempora, Upstream and PRISM as three of the mass surveillance programmes it was hoping to stop, saying the operations were making it increasingly difficult for Amnesty International to carry out its work.

While based in the US, the PRISM and Upstream programmes extended to UK-held data. Meanwhile Tempora is the UK's own GCHQ programme, giving spooks access to vast swathes of data on millions of people.

"It is thanks only to Edward Snowden's revelations, and the scant disclosures we and the other claimants have been able to prise from the government, that we know anything whatsoever about what the intelligence services are up to," said James Welch, Legal Director for Liberty.

The filing also detailed how a closed hearing took place, outlining Amnesty International and the other applicants' concerns, but none of the bodies were invited to attend because of the sensitive nature of the country's security.

Nick Williams, Amnesty International's legal counsel said: "The UK government's surveillance practices have been allowed to continue unabated and on an unprecedented scale, with major consequences for people's privacy and freedom of expression. No-one is above the law and the European Court of Human Rights now has a chance to make that clear."

Carly Nyst, legal director of Privacy International, added: "Mass surveillance is a violation of our fundamental rights. Intercepting millions of communications every day, and secretly receiving millions more from the NSA by the back door is neither necessary nor proportionate."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.