ECHR ruled bulk interception in violation of right to privacy, freedom of expression

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued judgement in the case of Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom (application nos. 58170/13, 62322/14 and 24969/15) ruling that the bulk intercept regime and regime for obtaining communications data from communication service providers in the United Kingdom violates Art. 8 (right to respect for private and family life/communications) and Art. 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights. 

The case concerned complaints by journalists and human-rights organisations in regard to surveillance regimes in the United Kingdom: the bulk interception of communications, receipt of intercept material from foreign governments and intelligence agencies, and obtaining of communications data from communication service providers.


The ECHR stated that operating a bulk interception regime did not in and of itself violate the European Convention. However, it had to be subject to ‘end-to-end safeguards’, meaning that bulk interception needs to confirm with principles of necessity and proportionality with assessments at each stage, and needs to be subject to independent authorisation, supervision, and review.