Feeds

Court rules 90s UK.gov wiretaps violated human rights

Home Office: What's it got to do with RIPA?

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Liberty called for an overhaul of RIPA yesterday after the European Court of Human Rights slapped the UK government over the way it applied the UK's previous interception legislation.

But the Home Office today said it did not see that the judgement had any implications for the UK's current suite of laws covering covert investigations.

The court ruled that the UK had violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by tapping communications of Liberty, along with British Irish Rights Watch and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties between 1990 and 1997. Article 8 quaintly demands the right to respect for private and family life and correspondence.

The three human rights groups had claimed that the MoD’s Electronic Test Facility had eavesdropped on their phone, fax, email and data comms between 1990 and 1997.

The three had first lodged complaints with the UK’s Interception of Communications Tribunal, the DPP and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, to “no avail” with local courts ruling “there was no contravention to the Interception of Powers Act 1985”.

Liberty et al then took the case to the European Court Human Rights, which after a mere nine years decided that there had indeed “been an interference with their human rights as guaranteed by Article 8”.

The court found that the 1985 Act gave the UK government “virtually unlimited” discretion to intercept communications between the UK and an external receiver, and “wide discretion” to decide which communications were subsequently listened to or read.” The government had guidelines to ensure a “safeguard against abuse of power", but these were not included in legislation, nor made available to the public.

The court concluded that the UK’s 1985 interception law “had not indicated with sufficient clarity... the scope or manner of the exercise of the very wide discretion of the conferred on the State to intercept and examine external communications” so as to guard against abuse of power.

The 1985 Act and the 1990s eavesdropping on Liberty and its Irish counterparts came against the background of the IRA’s armed campaign against the British state.

Over a decade on, and the 1985 Act has been replaced by RIPA. It has the same objective in detecting terrorism, serious crime and the like, but is more commonly known for being applied by local councils to people suspected to circumventing school applications procedures and not cleaning up after their dogs.

Gareth Crossman, Liberty’s Policy Director, said in a statement yesterday the judgement highlighted the need for a review of RIPA.

Liberty’s legal officer Alex Gask said: “While secret surveillance is a valuable tool, the mechanisms for intercepting our telephone calls and emails should be as open and accountable as possible, and should ensure proportionate use of very wide powers.”

Mark Kelly, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, said the judgement had clear implications for many other Council of Europe member states, including Ireland. ”Our lax data interception regime will require a thorough overhaul in order to ensure that it meets the standards required by the European Court of Human Rights under Article 8.”

The Home Office was less vocal, saying it did not think the judgement had any implications for RIPA. While yesterday's judgement concerned the 1985 Act, a Home Office spokesman said there were no legal challenges against RIPA. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.