Human rights groups, civil liberties organizations, privacy advocates and journalists brought the case to Europe's top rights court. The groups launched their legal challenge after US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the UK's surveillance and intelligence-sharing practices, dubbed the "Big Brother" program.
Main takeaways from the rulingThe court examined three contentious points in the British surveillance program: bulk interception of communications, obtaining data on targets from communications providers and the legality of intelligence sharing with foreign governments.
Here's how they ruled on each one:
- The UK's mass collection of information and communications was found to violate Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantees a right to privacy. Judges noted that there was "insufficient oversight" over the selection and interception of the data.
- However, the court said that the bulk interception of communications was not, in and of itself, illegal, but that future programs "had to respect criteria set down in its case-law."
- The court was more decisive when it came to the interception of journalistic material, ruling that such programs violate the right freedom of information.
- A program for obtaining data from communications providers was also found to be "not in accordance with the law."
- The exchange of intelligence data between foreign governments, such as the exchange between British and US spy agencies, was ruled legal.