The British mass surveillance program, revealed by informant Edward Snowden as part of its sensational leaks about US espionage, violated people's right to privacy, the highest court of European rights ruled on Thursday.
The ruling in the case of Big Brother Watch and Others against the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, said that the interception of journalistic material also violated the right to freedom of information.
The case was presented by a group of journalists and rights activists who believe that their data may have been attacked.
The British massive surveillance program, revealed by the informant Edward Snowden (photographed in a video of 2015), violated the right of people to privacy, ruled on Thursday the highest court of European rights
The court ruled that the existence of the surveillance program "did not violate the convention itself," but noted that "such a regime should respect the criteria established in its jurisprudence."
They concluded that the massive search for information by the British spy agency GCHQ violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to privacy because there was "insufficient supervision" of the program.
The court found that supervision was doubly poor, in the way GCHQ selected Internet providers to intercept data and then leaked the messages, and the way in which intelligence agents selected which data to examine.
It determined that the regime that covers how the spy agency obtained data from the Internet and telephone companies was not in accordance with the law.
"While the Court was satisfied that the UK intelligence services took their (European human rights) obligations seriously and did not abuse their powers, it found that there was inadequate independent oversight of the selection and search processes involved. in the operation, "the court said in a statement.
The court said that the existence of the program run by GCHQ, a large intelligence gathering center in Cheltenham (pictured, archive photo), was not illegal
"In addition, there were no real safeguards applicable to the selection of related communications data for examination, even though these data could reveal a great deal about a person's habits and contacts," the court said.
In a new victory for the 16 plaintiffs, the court ruled that the program also provided "insufficient safeguards regarding confidential journalistic material," in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention, which protects freedom of expression and information.
But he dismissed claims that Britain further violated the privacy of those it censored by sharing intelligence with foreign governments.
"The regime for sharing intelligence with foreign governments does not violate either Article 8 or Article 10," he said.
The cases are the last legal challenge to the United Kingdom in a long spying scandal following the revelations of Snowden, a former contractor with the National Security Agency of the United States (NSA) whose revelations in 2013 renewed the debate on privacy versus security.
Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents to the press in 2013, which revealed the vast scope of private data surveillance that was implemented after the September 11 attacks.
The documents showed, among other things, that Britain spied on foreign politicians at meetings of the G20 summit in London in 2009 and that its spy agency compiled huge amounts of global emails, Facebook posts, Internet stories and calls, and shared them with the NSA.
Snowden, who fled to Russia, is wanted in the United States for espionage.
Among the more than a dozen groups that brought the case to Strasbourg were the Big Brother Watch organization based in London, the Office of Investigative Journalism and the former Guardian reporter Alice Ross.
They said that Britain's activities – many of them executed from GCHQ, a large intelligence gathering center in Cheltenham – could threaten the privacy of journalists, who fear that their contact lists or the websites they visit are being analyzed by government.
"Such data allow intrusion into the most intimate aspects of a person's daily life," said Dinah Rose, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, before the court in hearings last year.
The British government's lawyer, James Eadie, said at the time that the programs were necessary in the fight against terrorism.
The ECHR noted that national governments enjoy "ample discretion" to decide what kind of surveillance is necessary to protect national security.
But he said such programs require sufficient supervision to maintain vigilance for what is necessary in a democratic society.
He noted that some of the data collected by the GCHQ "could reveal a lot about a person's habits and contacts."
The sentence is not final, since it can be appealed before the great courtroom in Strasbourg.
The court gave Britain, which is in the process of altering the legislation on the subject, three months to decide whether to request an appeal hearing.