Group Privacy pp 123-138 | Cite as

Indiscriminate Bulk Data Interception and Group Privacy: Do Human Rights Organisations Retaliate Through Strategic Litigation?

  • Quirine EijkmanEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 126)


Human rights groups are increasingly calling for the protection of their right to privacy in relation to the bulk surveillance and interception of their personal communications. Some are advocating through strategic litigation. This advocacy tool is often chosen when there is weak political or public support for an issue. Nonetheless, as a strategy it remains a question if a lawsuit is strategic in the context of establishing accountability for indiscriminate bulk data interception. The chapter concludes that from a legal perspective the effect of the decision to litigate on the basis of the claim that a collective right to group privacy was violated has not (yet) resulted in significant change. Yet the case study, the British case of human rights groups versus the intelligence agencies, does seem to suggest that they have been able to create more public awareness about mass surveillance and interception programs and its side-effects


Communications surveillance Bulk data interception Strategic litigation Cyber intelligence agencies Human rights groups Accountability 


  1. Amnesty International (AI). 2013. Amnesty International brings claim against UK over state surveillance [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 16th Feb 2014].
  2. Amnesty International (AI). 2014. Free speech [Online], Amnesty International United Kingdom website, Available from: [Accessed: 16th Nov 2014].
  3. Amnesty International (AI). 2015a. Amnesty International takes UK government to the European Court of Human Rights over mass surveillance [Online], Amnesty International United Kingdom website, Available from: [Accessed: 25th Mar 2015].
  4. Amnesty International (AI). 2015b. Amnesty International calls upon David Cameron to launch surveillance enquiry [Online], Amnesty International website, Available from: [Accessed: 12th July 2015].
  5. Amon, J. J., M. Wurth, and M. McLemora. 2015. Evaluating Human Rights Advocacy on Criminal Justice and Sex Work, Health and Human Rights Journal, 17/1/[Online] Available from: [Accessed: 16th Feb 2015].
  6. Amoore, L. 2014. Security and the claim to privacy. International Political Sociology 8: 108–112.Google Scholar
  7. Barber, C.C. 2012. Tackling the evaluation challenge in human rights: Assessing the impact of strategic litigation organisations. The International Journal of Human Rights 16(3): 411–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bergen, P., D. Sterman, E. Schneider, and C.Bailey. 2014. Do NSA’s bulk surveillance programs stop terrorists? [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 5th Feb 2014].
  9. Buckland, B. A. and A. Wills. 2013. Whistleblowing in the security sector. In Protection of whistleblowers eds. N. Ruzic, B. Medenica. Belgrade: Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014].
  10. Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 2014. Surveillance State: Bureau Files ECHR Case Challenging UK Government over Surveillance of Journalists Communications [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 5 Feb 2015].
  11. Bytes For All. 2014. Investigatory powers tribunal finds GCHQ’s tempora program in principle legal, 5 December 2015, [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 5th Feb 2015].
  12. Chichowski, R. 2007. The European court and civil society: Litigation, mobilization and governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Citizens versus Plasterk. 2014. ECLI:N:RBDHA:2014:8966, The Hague District Court, no. C09/445237 HA ZA 13–1325, 23 July 2014.Google Scholar
  14. Clapper v. Amnesty International. 2013. Clapper, Director of national intelligence versus Amnesty International USA et al. 568, US Supreme Court, 26 February 2013.Google Scholar
  15. Clark, R. 2014. Richard Clarke at RSA Conference: 10 Observations on US Intelligence Gathering. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 2 Mar 2014].
  16. Cortright, D. et al. 2011. Friend not foe: Opening spaces for civil society engagement to prevent violent extremism. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 1 Feb 2014].
  17. Council of Europe (COE). 2015. Mass surveillance, committee on legal affairs and human rights, Strasbourg: Council of Europe, Nr. As/Jur (2015)01, 26 January 2015, [Accessed: 23 Feb 2015].
  18. Der Spiegel. 2014. The NSA in Germany: Snowden’s documents available for download Spiegel Online International 18 June 2014 [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 19 Feb 2015].
  19. European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 2006. Weber versus Germany. Application number 54934/00, 29 June 2006Google Scholar
  20. European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 2008. Liberty and others versus the United Kingdom. Application number 58243/00, 1 July 2008.Google Scholar
  21. European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 2010. Sanoma and others versus the Netherlands. Application number 38224/03, 14 September 2010.Google Scholar
  22. European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 2012. Telegraaf and others versus the Netherlands. Application number 39315/06, 22 November 2012.Google Scholar
  23. European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 2014. Big brother and others versus the United Kingdom. Application number. 58170/13, 7 January 2014.Google Scholar
  24. European Parliament. 2013. National programmes for mass surveillance of personal data in EU member states and their compatibility with EU Law, Directorate for Internal Policies Policy Department Citizen’s Rights and Constitutional Affairs, PE.493.032 [Accessed: 23rd Feb 2014].
  25. Expert Witness Statement of Ian Brown for Big Brother Watch and Others (Expert Witness Statement). 2013. Re: Large-Scale Internet Surveillance by the UK Application No. 58170/13, European Court of Human Rights.Google Scholar
  26. Farrell, H., and M. Finnemore. 2013. The end of hypocrisy: American foreign policy in the age of leaks. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 15th Mar 2014].
  27. Free Snowden. 2015. Impact. Free Snowden Website [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 19th Feb 2015].
  28. Gellman, B., and A. Soltani. 2014. NSA surveillance program reaches “into the past” to retrieve, replay phone calls. The Washington Post. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 19th Mar 2014].
  29. Gellman, B., A. Soltani, and A. Peterson. 2013. How we know the NSA had access to internal google and yahoo cloud data. The Washington Post. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 3rd Nov 2014].
  30. Glanz, J., J. Larson, and A. Lehren. 2014. Spy agencies tap data streaming from phone apps. New York Times [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 3rd Jan 2014].
  31. Gorvin, I. 2012. Producing the evidence that human rights advocacy works: First steps towards systematized evaluation at human rights watch. Journal of Human Rights Practice 1(3): 477–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Greenwald, G. and W. MacAskill. 2013. NSA prism program taps in to user data of apple, google and others. The Guardian. 6 June 2013 [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 12th Feb 2014].
  33. Harding, L. 2014. Edward Snowden: US government deliberately snooped on human rights workers. The Guardian. 8 April 2014 [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 5th Nov 2014].
  34. Hodson, L. 2013. Activating the law: Exploring the legal responses of NGOs to gross human rights violations. In Towards a sociology of human rights, ed. M. Madsen and G. Verschraegen, 267–283. Oxford: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  35. Inkster, N. 2014. The Snowden revelations: Myths and misapprehensions. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy 56(1): 51–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Intelligence & Security Committee of Parliament (ISP). 2015. Privacy and security: A modern and transparent legal framework. 12 March 2015, London: House of Commons.Google Scholar
  37. InterRights. 2015. Our cases. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 19 Feb 2015].
  38. Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). 2013. The respondents open response, UKIPTTrib 13_77H, Case Nos: IPT/13/77H/IPT/13/92/CH, 15 November 2013, London.Google Scholar
  39. Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). 2014. Judgment (First Judgment), [2014] UKIPTTrib 13_77-H, Case Nos: IPT/13/77/H, IPT/13/92/CH, IPT/13/168-173/H, IPT/13/194/CH, IPT/13/204/CH, 5 December 2014, London.Google Scholar
  40. Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). 2015a. Judgment (Second Judgment), [2015] UKIPTTrib 13 77-H, Case Nos: IPT/13/77/H, IPT/13/92/CH, IPT/13/168-173/H, IPT/13/194/CH, IPT/13/204/CH, 6 February 2015, London.Google Scholar
  41. Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). 2015b. Determination, [2015] UKIPTTrib 13 77-H, Case Nos: IPT/13/77/H, IPT/13/92/CH, IPT/13/168-173/H, IPT/13/194/CH, IPT/13/204/CH, 22 June 2015, London.Google Scholar
  42. Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). 2015c. Post and Email, [2015] UKIPTTrib 13-77-H, Case Nos: IPT/13/77/H, IPT/13/168-173/H, IPT/13/194/CH, 2 July 2015, London.Google Scholar
  43. Kessler, G. 2013. James Clapper’s least “untruthful statement” to the Senate. The Washington Post. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 25 Feb 2014].
  44. Levi, M., and D.S. Wall. 2004. Technologies, security, and privacy in the post-9/11 European information society. Journal of Law and Society 31(2): 194–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lyon, D. 2003. Surveillance as social sorting: Privacy, risk and social digital discrimination. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  46. MacAskill, E. et al. 2013. GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world’s communications. The Guardian. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 23 Feb 2014].
  47. McLaughlin, J. 2015. British tribunal flip-flops on wrongful surveillance of Amnesty International. The Intercept. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 13 July 2015].
  48. Newman, M. 2014. Mass surveillance regime does not violate human rights law, tribunal rules, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 5 December 2014 [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 7 Feb 2015].
  49. Norton-Taylor, R. 2013. UK intelligence chiefs get off scot-free in grilling on NSA leaks. The Guardian. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 5 Feb 2014].
  50. Norton-Taylor, R., and D. Rushe. 2013. Ex-MI6 deputy chief plays down the damage caused by Snowden leaks. The Guardian. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].
  51. Privacy International. 2015a. GCHQ-NSA intelligence sharing unlawful, says UK surveillance tribunal [Online] Available from: [Accessed 6 Feb 2015].
  52. Privacy International. 2015b. 10 human eights organizations versus the United Kingdom: additional submissions on the facts of complaints. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 6 July 2015].
  53. Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 2014. Report on the telephone records program conducted under section 215 of the USA Patriot Act and on the operations of the foreign intelligence surveillance court. Washington: Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board.Google Scholar
  54. Propublica. 2014. Spy agencies probe angry birds and other apps for personal data. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].
  55. Public Law Project. 2014. The guide to strategic litigation. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 10 Feb 2015].
  56. Rosenberg, G.N. 2007. The hollow hope: Can courts bring social change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  57. Savage, C. 2013. NSA said to search content of messages to and from US. The New York Times. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 5 Feb 2014].
  58. Schmidt, E., and J. Cohen. 2013. The new digital age: Reshaping the future of people, nations and business. New York/Toronto: Random House.Google Scholar
  59. Surveille. 2013. Deliverable D2.3: Paper by local authorities end-users. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 2nd Mar 2014].
  60. The Guardian. 2013a. GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secrete access to world communication. The Guardian. 21 June 2013, [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 15th Feb 2014].
  61. The Guardian. 2013b. The legal loopholes that allow GCHQ to spy on the world. The Guardian. 21 June 2013, [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 15th Feb 2014].
  62. The Guardian. 2014. Green politicians launch legal challenge of GCHQ surveillance. The Guardian. 4 May 2014, [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 5th Feb 2014].
  63. Udall, M., and R. Wyden. 2013. Statement on reports of compliance violations made under NSA collection programs. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 6 Mar 2014].
  64. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2014. ‘The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age’, report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, 30 June 2014. UN DOC A/HRC/27/37.Google Scholar
  65. United Nations (UN) General Assembly. 2013. ‘The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age’, 18 December 2013, UN DOC A/RES/68/167.Google Scholar
  66. United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur. 2009. Report by Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin (28 December 2009), Human Rights Council, UN Doc A/HRC/13/37.Google Scholar
  67. van der Sloot, B. 2014. Privacy in the Post-NSA Era Time for a Fundamental Revision. The Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and E-Commerce Law 5(2): 1–11.Google Scholar
  68. van Gulijk, C. 2014. European commission FP7 project: Surveillance: Ethical issues, legal limitations, and efficiency. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 10th Mar 2014].
  69. Visser, J. 2014 Wat zijn de gevolgen van het Plasterkdebat? (What are the consequences of the Plasterkdebate) [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 3 Mar 2014].
  70. White House. 2014. Remarks of the President on signals review. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 3 Mar 2014].
  71. White House Office of the Press Secretary. 2010. Summary of the white house review of the December 25, 2009 attempted terrorist attack 7 January 2010. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 25 Feb 2014].
  72. Wills, A. 2007. Understanding intelligence oversight. Geneva: Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HU University of Applied SciencesUtrechtNetherlands

Personalised recommendations