English PEN challenges GCHQ in the European Court

English PEN announces the launch of a legal challenge against the actions of GCHQ, alleging it has illegally intruded on the privacy of British and European citizens.

English PEN has joined with Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group and the German internet activist Constanze Kurz, to file papers at the European Court of Human Rights, bringing an action against the UK Government.

We allege that by collecting vast amounts of data leaving or entering the UK, including the content of emails and social media messages, the UK’s spy agency has acted illegally.

When details recently emerged in the media about the Prism and Tempora programmes (codenames for previously secret online surveillance operations) it was revealed that GCHQ has the capacity to collect more than 21 petabytes of data a day – equivalent to sending all the information in all the books in the British Library 192 times every 24 hours.

English PEN and its fellow claimants are asking the court to declare that unrestrained surveillance of much of Europe’s internet communications by the UK Government, and the outdated regulatory system that has permitted this, breach our right to privacy.

English PEN, Big Brother Watch and Open Rights Group are being represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn who are instructing Helen Mountfield QC of Matrix Chambers and Tom Hickman and Ravi Mehta of Blackstone Chambers.

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said: ‘Privacy is now an essential condition for freedom of expression. Following the revelations about the extent to which GCHQ and the NSA have been harvesting our personal data, no citizen in the UK can be confident that their communications are private. If this legal challenge is successful then I’m hopeful that we will secure effective protection of our rights.’

To learn more and to support the campaign visit the dedicated website at www.privacynotprism.org.uk

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