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UK Watchdog Files Against GCHQ In European Court Of Human Justice

LONDON – On Friday morning, the London-based internet privacy watchdog Privacy International, along with five other internet rights groups, lodged an application before the European Court of Human Rights against the UK Government’s use of bulk hacking abroad.

The group, which was founded in 1990 and describes itself as “committed to fighting for the right to privacy across the world,” decided to bring the case to ECHR after the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal refused to rule on whether British intelligence organization GCHQ’s broad powers under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 section 7 – authorizing any unlawful acts committed abroad – complied with the European Convention of Human Rights.  Articles 8 and 10 of the Convention require all interference with the human rights to privacy and freedom be “prescribed by law.”  The application’s co-claimants include internet activist groups GreenNet (UK), Chaos Computer Club (Germany), May First (US), Jinbonet (Korea), and RiseUp (US).

Privacy International’s application follows a Judicial Review they filed in May, challenging the IPT’s decision that the Government can issue “thematic” warrants, such as one covering “all mobile phones in London.”

Despite this, the GCHQ may bypass articles 8 and 10 through the Investigatory Powers bill (HL Bill 40), which passed the House of Commons in June with 444 votes for and 69 against.  It is currently in committee in the House of Lords, and is expected to pass.  Only the Scottish national party and the Green party voted against the bill, dubbed “a Snooper’s bill” by critics.

Tory lawmakers maintain that the GCHQ’s hacking powers are consistent with UK laws and the European Convention on Human Rights.  In the bill’s explanatory notes, the Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Earl Howe, stated, “in my view the provisions of the Investigatory Powers Bill are compatible with the Convention rights.”

The bill goes on to state that “further protections for privacy” exist “by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998.”  The Human Rights Act 1998 is an adaption of the European Convention of Human Rights.

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