APC member Bytes for All has filed a claim that its human rights have been violated by GCHQ. The claim, similar to Privacy International’s action in the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal last July, highlights how the UK’s mass surveillance programme has a disproportionate impact on those outside the UK.
The Importance of Foreign Challenges to UK Surveillance
Caroline Wilson, Privay International's legal officer, writes:
"Foreign people and organisations, like Bytes for All, whose human rights have been violated can and should challenge these discriminatory regimes within the countries that engage in such surveillance. As both Bytes for All and Privacy International argue, when it comes to the interception of communications, the violation of rights occurs where the interception takes place.
While such mass surveillance, in and of itself, is violative of human rights, that infringement is compounded where foreigners' phone calls, emails, or internet searches are intercepted as they currently receive even fewer legal protections than the communications of those who reside in the UK. In addition to violating Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which protect private communications, such disparate treatment is a violation of Article 14 that prohibits discrimination of all sorts, including based on nationality.
Via its Tempora mass surveillance program, the UK reportedly gobbles up the vast majority of internet and phone traffic that travels through undersea fibre optic cables that land in the UK. As Bytes for All recounts in its complaint, these cables carry much of world's internet traffic, even where no party to the communication is located in the UK. For instance, Bytes for All has found that its communications are often routed through the UK when it accesses websites based in other countries, including the US, Ireland, Hungary, South Africa, and even its neighbour, India. Bytes for All's discovery highlights a worrying truth: No matter where you live, if you use the phone or the internet, the UK government could be intercepting your everyday communications even if the person you're speaking to is nowhere near the UK."