Council of Europe: mass surveillance violates human rights, democracy, law

Strong stuff, and powerful marketing material for SAFE. Lots of nuggets highlighted by the gaurdian from this Council of Europe report:
Mass surveillance is fundamental threat to human rights, says European report:

Europe’s top rights body has said mass surveillance practices are a fundamental threat to human rights and violate the right to privacy enshrined in European law.

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe says in a report that it is “deeply concerned” by the “far-reaching, technologically advanced systems” used by the US and UK to collect, store and analyse the data of private citizens. It describes the scale of spying by the US National Security Agency, revealed by Edward Snowden, as “stunning”.

The report also suggests that British laws that give the monitoring agency GCHQ wide-ranging powers are incompatible with the European convention on human rights. It argues that British surveillance may be at odds with article 8, the right to privacy, as well as article 10, which guarantees freedom of expression, and article 6, the right to a fair trial.

“These rights are cornerstones of democracy. Their infringement without adequate judicial control jeopardises the rule of law,” it says.

There is compelling evidence that US intelligence agencies and their allies are hoovering up data “on a massive scale”, the report says. US-UK operations encompass “numerous persons against whom there is no ground for suspicion of any wrongdoing,” it adds.

The assembly is made up of delegates from 47 member states, including European Union and former Soviet countries. It is due to debate the report’s recommendations on Tuesday.

Though the recommendations are not binding on governments, the European court of human rights looks to the assembly for broad inspiration, and occasionally cites it in its rulings.

Several British surveillance cases are currently before the Strasbourg court. Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Privacy International and Liberty all argue that GCHQ’s mass collection of data infringes European law. In December the UK’s investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) dismissed their complaint.

The 35-page assembly report, written by a Dutch MP, Pieter Omtzigt, begins with a quote from the Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitysn: “Our freedom is built on what others do not know of our existences”. It says the knowledge that states do engage in mass surveillance has a “chilling effect” on the exercise of basic freedoms.

It says the assembly is deeply worried by the fact that intelligence agencies have deliberately weakened internet security by creating back doors and systematically exploiting weakness in security standards and implementation. Back doors can easily be exploited by “terrorists and cyber-terrorists or other criminals”, it says, calling for a greater use of encryption.

Another concern is the use of “secret laws, secret courts and secret interpretations of such laws” to justify mass surveillance. Typically, these laws “are very poorly scrutinised”.

The assembly acknowledges there is a need for “effective targeted surveillance of suspected terrorists and organised criminals”. But citing independent reviews carried out in the US, it says there is little evidence that mass surveillance has stopped terrorist attacks. It notes: “Instead, resources that might prevent attacks are diverted to mass surveillance, leaving potentially dangerous persons free to act.”

There is no mention of the recent attacks in Paris by three jihadist terrorists who shot dead 17 people. All three were known to the French authorities, who had them under surveillance but discontinued eavesdropping last summer. David Cameron has argued that the Paris attacks show that British spies need further surveillance powers. The report implicitly rejects this conclusion.

The assembly has been taking evidence on mass surveillance since last year. In April Snowden spoke to delegates via a video link from Moscow. He revealed that the NSA had specifically targeted non-governmental organisations and other civil groups, both in the US and internationally.

Snowden’s decision to leak documents to the Guardian and other media organisations in June 2013, was courageous, Omtzigt said, and had “triggered public debate on the protection of privacy”. American officials, meanwhile, turned down an invitation to address the assembly, the MP said.

The draft report will be debated in committee and by the full assembly later this year.

It calls for:

• Collection of personal data without consent only if court-ordered on the basis of reasonable suspicion.

• Stronger parliamentary/judicial control of the intelligence services.

• Credible protection for whistleblowers (like Snowden) who expose wrongdoing by spy agencies.

• An international “codex” of rules governing intelligence sharing that national agencies could opt into.

Governments are free to implement or ignore the recommendations. However, if they reject them they have to explain why. They usually reply within six months.

The report says that Europe’s intelligence services work closely with their American counterparts. It says the Netherlands, for example, intercepted vast amounts of Somali telephone traffic in order to combat piracy, and shared it with the NSA. Denmark has collaborated with the US on surveillance since the late 1990s.

The relationship between the NSA and the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, has been “intimate” for the past 13 years. Revelations that the NSA spied on Angela Merkel’s mobile phone may have strained relations, but Germany still hosts several major NSA sites, including the NSA’s European headquarters in Stuttgart.

According to Omtzigt, surveillance powers have grown, and political oversight has diminished. Political leaders have lost control over their own intelligence agencies. The result is a “runaway surveillance machine”. Moreover, most politicians can no longer understand the immensely technical programmes involved, the report says.

The MP cites the case of James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, who in April 2013 told the Senate that the NSA didn’t “wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans. Clapper later apologised for giving an untrue answer. “I still do not want to believe that he lied,” Omtzigt writes, adding that much intelligence work has been outsourced to private companies.

The assembly sent a letter to the German, British and US authorities asking whether they colluded with each other – in other words, got round laws preventing domestic spying by getting a third party to do it for them. The Germans and British denied this; the US failed to reply.

The report concludes that the UK response was probably true, given extensive British laws that already allow practically unlimited spying. The new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act – Drip, for short – passed in July, allows the wide-ranging collection of personal data, in particular metadata, the report says. “There seems to be little need for circumvention any more,” it concludes.


I hope we ca get the universal declaration of human rights in the US and UK. Its either that or all this labor maket reform oppression.

We already do…it is International Law generally agreed as being binding between most countries (Islamic countries excepted)…as far as I know. Individual countries/areas may have derivations of it …ie the European Convention on Human Rights …which will have informed the Council of Europe.
This is brilliant news in fact and a massive headache for Cameron…if the European Court rules on this. This is why Cameron has been trying to opt out of the Convention and introduce a “British Bill of Rights” - I think he’s had an inkling this may have been on the horizon. Here are the important bits:

ah…just realised what happened a while ago when happybeing said I put words in his mouth…lol…not techie, so don’t know how not to…erm sorry …again …Happybeing. I could have fun with this though…lol

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It exists, it’s called Natural Law.

Your information is your property. There’s nothing else to be said about that, and it’s completely unrelated to ISPs and whatnot.

There is no need to codify anything and the EU can’t give us any rights (just like they can’t deny any - and in fact one should remember that the right existed before the Internet, let alone these pathetic EU laws).
Everyone has the right to their property based on the Law, regardless of whether it’s been voted in by some bureaucrats, or explicitly denied by some fascist.

But you need to personally subscribe to the concept of private property to believe that, which may be a problem for some.


@janitor But changes are coming. I see IP law going away. I also see that organizations are not people and not entitled to private property protection notions on data- they are entitled to complete transparency as that is what serves the people, and not having that history showd (present predicament) undermines the people.

@Al_Kafir I’d like to agree with that but I’ve seen that some of the same people who want to take treaties seriously also think international law is BS. I remember reading that some people object to UDHR because they see some sort of danger in trying to make every right explicit. I don’t think I follow that line of logic when it comes to key rights. In the US and UK its really about stupid backward greed and notions of some people being better than others and want to enslave. UDHR should become part of the constitutional rights set and American Administrative Procedures Act should be working on the full UDHR. They couldn’t have gone after Assange the way they did if they took the UDHR seriously.

Ironic as Eleanor Roosevelt and some other Americans were instrumental in the UDHR formulation and it was put together as a strategy to prevent WWIII. Look at how weak the American bill of rights is. The reason the US hasn’t signed doesn’t have to do with prisoner rights or other such issues but the protections for labor which are incompatible with US and UK style wage slavery nonsense and their criminal race to the bottom.

Janitor, I think you may be talking about the EU parliament or something, rather than the European Court of Human Rights. I can’t think of any “pathetic EU laws” that have resulted from any of it’s rulings I mean. The only contentious recent ruling I think has been the prisoner voting thing (which I 100% agree with btw).
The article above mentions which articles have been contravened and have nothing to do with property rights

. I would also obviously disagree that basic principles of Human Rights do not need codifying into Law. (Along with all the signatories to the UN Convention on Human Rights, following Hitler’s holocaust).
There are massive issues of freedom at stake here and Cameron is trying to reduce ours in various ways. The bigger picture is that Cameron needs to get his Communications and Data Bill through and enshrined in British Law before the Court of Human Rights rules, then it will be either more difficult to remove later, or be in direct contravention of the Court. To remain a member of the EU, all members have to be signed up to adhere to the Conventions and rulings on Human Rights. We would be in Contravention of too many things really and this at least puts our world standing as advocates of Human Rights in Jeopardy, not to mention our membership of the EU ……Please, this is just my own reasoning, so please contest or chip in where necessary anybody, because this is really too important not to discuss the implications of I think….
I think this Communications Bill passing could be the dawn of a very black day indeed, weakening our ties to Europe and strengthening with the US.
It would be interesting to get others’ opinions.

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I agree it is important. Hopefully Cameron will lose the next elections and someone wiser will become your PM. I’m not a fan of the EU, and would rather see it disbanded along with the EMU, but institutions like the EC should definitely stay.

Even though international political pressure may help, ultimately it’ll be up to the citizens of the UK to prevent these kind of bills. If they want this shit, the EU and/or EC throwing a fit will not help anything.

I agree and that’s what worries me really. I’m on the fence about a lot about the EU, but not the ECHR, that;s really important. I’m mainly concerned with the Human rights issues, than the larger politics. I just think that Human Rights should be the backbone of any Democracy and pretty much underlie evertyhing else - they are fundamental…I can see attempts to undermine them.
I also think that just the act of this now formally becoming a Human Rights issue puts pressure on Govt - It awakens a recognition in the public that our Govt is at odds with Human Rights…it highlights the issue and “shames” in a way, so affects reputation and world standing…so, maybe it will help something?

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Yes in shining a proceedural and substantive spot light it maked their crap as transparent. I think the biggest thing for human rights resistors like the US and UK is the labor protections. UDHR does require temporary periods if rest for people or idle periods as a right. That is incompatible with the capitalist idiocy of “we own your ass” type defacto slavery. You see when pushed these entitled thugs dont go toward seeing slavery as murder, they go toward secret law and failing that toward declared martial law. They will call it order or keeping the peace.

The Court doesn’t pass laws, the Parliament does (although in case of EU, China and North Korea, that’s only partially true).
Has it ruled pathetically? I haven’t looked, but I’m sure it has, because in the EU “human rights” have been completely perverted.

You shouldn’t look only into “negative” rulings to see whether there are wrong outcomes. “Positive” decisions are just as problematic. For example I if they ruled in favor of an “unjustly” laid off employee, that almost certainly violated the property rights of the employer. I don’t even need to look at what they do…

I know. So you are talking about the Parliament then, as I said?

Perverted in what way?

So you are admonishing me for only looking at “negative” rulings, rather than both positive and negative, when you’ve looked at neither?

Maybe you do…

The ECHR is not an Employment Tribunal service and only gets involved after all other high courts within the individual’s country have been exhausted. I’m pretty sure Human Rights does not cover property Rights - correct me if I’m wrong? Ok, I’m wrong -just checked. So are you saying that 2 separate rights are in conflict? Need to think about this a bit…you’re saying IP is private property… right? Hmmm…
The following excerpt from legislation would seem to suggest it’s not covered, so wouldn’t be a conflict:

"You have the right to enjoy your property peacefully.

Property can include things like land, houses, shares, licences, leases, patents, money, a pension and certain types of welfare benefits.

A public authority cannot take away property or place restrictions on your use of your property without very good reason.

This right applies to companies as well as individuals."

Hmmm…just noticed patents…lol - this is the British Equality and Human Rights Commission…more thinking needed…lol.
I think they are 2 different things really that are being conflated, (maybe only by me…lol) unless you can think of how not intercepting data/communications can infringe any patents.

@janitor there is no right to be in business and no right to a profit. And when it comes to protecting the conflicting interests of two parties more deference should be given to the more dependent more vulnerable party. An easy solution is permanent unquestioned unemployment as a right available to check the power of employers. The whole prostitution of employement needs to replaced. Work under the current system is almost never dignified.

But that’d be social policy, not justice. That’s why I say those guys are there to violate rights, not to protect them.

As just one example, consider that now the entire South of the EU is forced to use the euro although that’s driving them to misery.

Anyway, I don’t want to go too much off topic here (since the topic is in Marketing): like I said before they won’t get anywhere with their desire to ban encrypted communications and block MaidSafe from turning the big switch ON.

I’m just defending the European Court of Human Rights and the UN and European conventions. I am not defending the EU, or Parliament etc, which I recognise has problems and I’d probably agree that some daft laws have been passed - I wouldn’t though say that any of these were Human Rights related. The Human Rights underpins the whole thing and is fundamental in my view.

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I wouldnt want to stray either, but I dont agree that property is the core of rights formulations, privacy would seem to be a better basis - freedom from coercion. Property is secondary. So I dont see erring on the side of caution with regard to power by giving more deference to the mass of people in the inferior bargaining position as social policy but crucial to justice.

Screwing with property is one thing, being in an arbitrary position to command others because of money is another- its the heart of the injustice most people face and it needs to be reversed if there is to be any justice.

In most of Europe today you cannot work full time if you cannot get a job that pays “minimum wage” or above it. If you want to do that you have to violate laws & regulations.
A fundamental human right (to work) has been legislated out of existence continent-wide. Some rights.

That is hardly the case. They must provide an alternative. They arent saying starve they are saying no to having their society turned into a sweat shop.

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Yes…the Parliament (either euro or UK) introduced legislation for a minimum wage. The Human Right to work is the fundamental thing here and govts have some leeway to legislate for any (arguably) good reason. Like you said, the Court does not make the Law.
I would think that having a benefits system in place is one mitigating factor, plus it helps prevent against slave labour (article 4) , usually via illegal immigration. I expect it is seen that the benefits outweigh the negative impact on the hoardes (?) of (legally here?) UK people scrambling for a less than minimum wage job, when they can just claim benefits.
Edit: I think Safecoin would enable those that did want to work for low wages, to do so though. In fact I’ve got a job going if you want it, my flat’s a tip and I could do with a Janitor – 10 Safecoins per hour if you’re interested? Keep it under your hat though and don’t grass me up to the ECHR OK?
By the way I’m self-employed and often have to work for less than minimum wage - no law stops me doing this - the law prevents me abusing others as an employer.

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You can’t provide an alternative by denying it.
An alternative to those who can’t find a job at the minimum or higher wage is to work for a bit less and still make a living. By making that illegal you take it away from them.

No, that is absolute BS because there is no end to that. Non constructive capitalists can forfeit what they have because they didn’t come by it through honest means, Its not theirs to being with. . If you are going to call it a society instead of something waiting to be overthrown you have to see that the rich are a luxury, not an inevitability or necessity. Its a good sign that we can’t afford the embellishment the rich represent if we can’t take care of the basic needs of all of our citizens. Lets take the tinge of nationalism out and affirm that this applies the world and all people who live in it.

Competition has largely become a distraction. Better to do without tech than allow a largely useless oppressive class of the wealthy. There is a certain type of wealthy lout who doesn’t feel their wealth, inherited or otherwise, means anything unless they can point to or manufacture victims, lets introduce them to poverty, their wealth is a deep source of liability and instability its a loaded gun they use to threaten people with. The thing about distribution is not how stuff is currently distributed and how to re-distribute but to distribute it correctly to begin with. When that is done the wealth have no question about what they’ve earned and are entitled too, they were never more than instruments and they can’t manage much arrogance.