British Court Says Government’s Electronic Surveillance is Legal

Journalist:
Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco
December 6, 2014

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which handles cases involving Britain’s intelligence agencies, ruled Friday that electronic mass surveillance of people’s cellphone and online communications, like the Prism program revealed by Edward J. Snowden, is legal, The New York Times reports.

“The ‘Snowden revelations’ in particular have led to the impression voiced in some quarters that the law in some way permits the intelligence services carte blanche to do what they will. We are satisfied that this is not the case.”

Also read: The Snowden Effect Continues

The decision came after a global outcry against surveillance programs like Prism, which give American and British intelligence agencies almost unfettered access to Internet communications without individuals’ knowledge.

Privacy advocates and rights groups like Privacy International and Liberty and Amnesty International said they would appeal the British court’s decision at the European Court of Human Rights. In fact, citizens’ digital privacy rights are generally afforded higher protection in the rest of Europe than in Britain. In particular, Germany is the refuge of choice for those hounded by the security services.

The European Court of Human Rights, which will not hear the appeal before late 2015 at the earliest, may show more sympathy for the concerns voiced by privacy and civil rights groups.

The British Court Seems Very Reassured by the System of Safeguards that are in Place

Ian Brown, a professor of information security and privacy at Oxford, said:

“[The British court] seems very reassured by the system of safeguards that are in place, although some have been kept secret. In general, European courts are usually less reassured.”

I am afraid that “our” governments have already decided to go all the way toward an Orwellian state of surveillance and control freakery, and there isn’t much that the courts can do to protect us. At the same time, there is a lot that technology can do to protect us. Those who don’t want to be under constant surveillance can become familiar with how cryptography and online privacy technologies work, and use the appropriate privacy tools.

What do you think of this British Court’s decision? Comment below!

Images from Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco

Science writer, software developer, Bitcoin/crypto enthusiast.