ECHR rules against bulk interception regime under RIPA

In a case brought against the British Government by a group of journalists and civil liberties organisations, the Court found that the bulk interception regime and the regime for obtaining communications data from communications service providers (CSPs) under RIPA violated both Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

In relation to bulk interception, this was down to the lack of oversight both of the selection of Internet bearers for interception and the filtering, search and selection of intercepted communications for examination.  The Court also found that the safeguards governing the selection of “related communications data” for examination were inadequate. 

Crucially, in reaching this conclusion, the Court stated that the operation of a bulk interception regime did not in and of itself violate the Convention so long as such a regime respected the criteria set down in its case law.  This may have an effect on the bulk interception regime of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IP Act), particularly in relation to the interception of bulk secondary data.

In relation to the regime for obtaining communications data from CSPs under RIPA, the Court held that it violated Article 8 as it was not in accordance with the law and that it violated Article 10 since there were insufficient safeguards in respect of confidential journalistic material.

It should be noted that the IP Act, when fully in force, will make significant amendments to both the regimes for bulk interception and obtaining communications data from CSPs, and that these amendments were not considered by the Court.

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