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

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Group Privacy

Part of the book series: Philosophical Studies Series ((PSSP,volume 126))

Abstract

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

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In comparison to the United States of America (US) strategic litigation or public interest litigation in Europe is a relatively recent phenomenon (Chichowski 2007).

  2. 2.

    In the UK, for example, two parliamentary representatives of the Green Party have filed legal complaints (Guardian 2014).

  3. 3.

    The Dutch Citizens versus Plasterk case, for example, concentrates on international bulk data sharing between the Dutch Intelligences and Secrete Services (AIVD and MIVD) and the NSA. A group of human rights organisations, professional organisations and citizens had filed the complaint (Citizens v. Plasterk 2014). The case is now in the appeal phase.

  4. 4.

    These others are the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Right, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Legal Resources Centre.

  5. 5.

    Many other legal challenges of mass communications surveillance programs focus on others elements such as the bulk sharing of data, hacking, unreasonable search and seizure or freedom of expression.

  6. 6.

    Other human rights organisations including Big Brother Watch have immediately, without sending a complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, filled an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR 2014), which is currently being considered.

  7. 7.

    International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (10 July 2013). Available at: https://en.necessaryandproportionate.org/text

  8. 8.

    In June 2015 two human rights organisations, the South African Legal Resources Centre and Amnesty International, received notice of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that they had been lawfully subjected to interception and proportionally intercepted and assessed, but that their data had been retained too long (IPT 2015a/b).

  9. 9.

    An interception warrant is either targeted (article s.8(1) RIPA) or untargeted/strategic (article s.8(4) RIPA).

  10. 10.

    Basically the question was whether or not a group of international NGOs, labour organisations, lawyers and journalist had standing to sue the US alleging that they were imminently collecting their international communications through surveillance under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Act. They challenged the constitutionality of the 2008 Amendments Act, which reformed the 1978 FISA Act.

  11. 11.

    See among others (ECHR 2008).

  12. 12.

    In a Google news search on the day of and the day after the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s judgment on 5 and 6 December 2014, there are 202 news references mentioning the NGOs v. Intelligence Agencies case, and on 5 and 6 February 2015, 321 references (IPT 2014/2015a, b, c). Source Google news search. Keywords ‘Investigatory Powers Tribunal’, ‘civil society’ and ‘privacy’ (accessed 18 March 2015).

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Correspondence to Quirine Eijkman .

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Eijkman, Q. (2017). Indiscriminate Bulk Data Interception and Group Privacy: Do Human Rights Organisations Retaliate Through Strategic Litigation?. In: Taylor, L., Floridi, L., van der Sloot, B. (eds) Group Privacy. Philosophical Studies Series, vol 126. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46608-8_7

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