Mass Surveillance and Human Rights


Oct 29, 2004
European Court Ruling Could Recognize Mass Surveillance Violates Human Rights

How do these practices breach human rights?

These mass surveillance practices breach the European Convention on Human Rights, which recognizes the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The convention states that any state interference with these rights must be in accordance with law, and be necessary and proportionate.

The “in accordance with law” requirement stipulates a series of safeguards that a state should adopt to avoid abuses of power where the state conducts surveillance. These safeguards include an individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, which is inherently in tension with a mass surveillance program; prior judicial authorization; and notification to those whose information has been intercepted.

The U.K. government’s mass surveillance practices fail to meet the “in accordance with law” requirement, both because the legal framework is so opaque and because that framework lacks any of the safeguards outlined above.