British intelligence agency GCHQ was found guilty of violating the European Convention on Human Rights, the European court of human rights in Strasbourg said after analyzing the methods used to collect user data, including from communication service providers, and intelligence sharing with foreign governments.
GCHQ’s bulk data collection strategy was too aggressive and included no comprehensive data protection methods, the court ruled, following complaints by human rights activists and journalists. The complaints were raised “about three different surveillance regimes: (1) the bulk interception of communications; (2) intelligence sharing with foreign governments; and (3) the obtaining of communications data from communications service providers,” reads the press release.
The agency is responsible for national security and informs the armed forces and government about potential homeland security risks. The decision comes after Edward Snowden’s statements about government surveillance and data sharing policies.
The GCHQ is not the only agency to resort to bulk interception of communication; in June the European court of human rights also looked into Swedish legislation. However, in that case the court ruled all security measures had been considered and no violations occurred, as “the Swedish system provided adequate and sufficient guarantees against arbitrariness and the risk of abuse.”
The court didn’t overlook the fact that, secret surveillance is acceptable on grounds of detecting acts of terrorism, human trafficking, drug dealing and cybercrimes, as well as crimes against children, as tech innovation helps criminals communicate and conceal their operations.
“A State may operate a bulk interception regime if it considers that it is necessary in the interests of national security,” said the court.