EU Court Rules Out Mass Online Surveillance

The European Court of Justice has ruled that surveillance practices of France, Belgium, and the UK fail to safeguard fundamental rights. The only time when indiscriminate data-retention is allowed under EU law is only when the country faces a "serious threat to national security" that is present or foreseeable. 

The court also concluded that national courts cannot use information obtained from data-retention practices against suspects in criminal proceedings.

This ruling is a win for privacy, specifically in Britain, where the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) has the power to intercept private digital information wherever they see fit.

 

What are Digital Privacy Advocates Saying?

Restricting government authority to conduct invasive, limitless mass surveillance on citizens is always a good thing. This CJEU’s move to clamp down on EU Member States’ mass surveillance practices represents an encouraging step in the right direction towards appropriately protecting European residents’ fundamental rights to maintaining a private life. 

Several EU Member States have been for far too long conducting widespread surveillance operations with total impunity, often in the name of national security and public safety. While both of these issues are certainly important, often what we were seeing in many instances was a mass surveillance activity that was wholly disproportionate and entirely unreasonable.

The CJEU’s ruling still allows for law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the EU to do their jobs, but at the same time, it establishes that these authorities cannot continue encroaching on basic human rights through highly questionable mass surveillance programs.

There must be strict limits in place that make sure government agencies adhere to the rule of law and respect citizens’ rights to privacy while concurrently working to protect public safety and national security interests. 

The ruling also establishes an important tenor that clearly signals that Europeans have had enough with such indiscriminate, invasive surveillance practices and will not be willing to succumb to living in a police state.

CNBC:           ProPrivacy:        EU Observer:      NPR:       Forbes:

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