back to article UK, French, Belgian blanket spying systems ruled illegal by Europe’s top court

Mass surveillance programs run by the UK, French and Belgian governments are illegal, Europe’s top court has decided in a huge win for privacy advocates. The European Court of Justice (CJEU) announced on Tuesday that legislation passed by all three countries that allows the government to demand traffic and location data from …

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                  1. ThatOne Silver badge

                    Re: Hear all about it!

                    > Why hasn't it already been tried already, then?

                    Ah, the crux of the problem: Why don't all the kids bunch together to make a schoolyard bully shut up once and forever?

                    Because our fight/flight reflexes are geared towards flight, and herd mentality dictates you do whatever the others do, in this case nothing. Nobody wants to be the first one.

                    That's indeed the fatal flaw which makes bullying so easy...

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Hear all about it!

            @Charles 9

            "Depends on the size of the fist"

            True. Those with the means or desperation leave the country, Even when the guns turn inward at the border.

  1. Christoph

    If they can't collect the data themselves they can just ask NSA for their copy.

    1. TimMaher Bronze badge
      Pint

      The NSA copy

      Will be on an Excel spreadsheet of the xls persuasion.

    2. sev.monster
      Pirate

      Don't copy that floppy!

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Go

    Can I say it now ?

    The EU is now the beacon of freedom and justice for all. The USA has lost the crown and is descending into madness. It will probably recover, in time.

    Meanwhile, it's in the EU that freedom is guaranteed the best. Justice a bit less maybe, but we're getting there.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Can I say it now ?

      Meanwhile, it's in the EU that freedom is guaranteed the best. Justice a bit less maybe, but we're getting there.

      The UK still tops most countries in world rankings of freedom (14th worldwide, 9th place among EU members in the world human freedom index) and justice (8th overall worldwide in open government) for example. It is behind the usual candidates like New Zealand, Sweden and Denmark, but well ahead of France and Italy, for example. Generally also ahead of the USA. Don't believe all you read in the tabloids.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can I say it now ?

        Just don’t piss off Liz, or her swans!

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Can I say it now ?

          "Just don’t piss off Liz, or her swans!"

          She only owns the mute swans. Do what you want to the others.

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Can I say it now ?

            "Do what you want to the others."

            Well, you can try, but those fuckers can be pretty vicious.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Can I say it now ?

              But they won't tell on you...

      2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Can I say it now ?

        > The UK still tops most countries in world rankings of freedom (14th worldwide, 9th place among EU members in the world human freedom index)

        On the other hand we have a Govt who are currently trying to pass bills that will allow them to

        * Ignore the terms of a treaty they signed up to

        * Ignore domestic laws (including those against murder) under some extremely broad and ill-defined circumstances

        We *might* top most countries in rankings, but do not for a second rely on that. Complacency is the barn door through which all of that escapes, and it's very potentially in progress

        You can put it down to malice or incompetence, but either way the current lot are setting up a legal footing for future abusers. When we start to drop down those periodic rankings it will likely already be too late.

        Which, to be honest, brings us to the same conclusion you ended with

        > Don't believe all you read in the tabloids.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: Can I say it now ?

          What I don't understand is why the Tories would pass legislation that allows a future Labour government to get MI5 to round up all Tories and murder them "in the national interest".

          Sauce for the goose...

          1. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: Can I say it now ?

            But MI5 / 6 wouldn't as they are highly against proper labour values (though fine with Tory Lite labour as espoused by Blair or Starmer) - as evidenced by the plots to destabilise the Harold Wilson government, that came not via Conservatives but via the security services.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Can I say it now ?

              the plots to destabilise the Harold Wilson government, that came not via Conservatives but via the security services.

              There was supposedly a plot from some MI5 staff, but it was aimed at Wilson himself, who was alleged to be a soviet spy (according to a discredited defector). It didn't target the Labour party or the government as a whole.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can I say it now ?

        >>>The UK still tops most countries in world rankings of freedom (14th worldwide ~

        Yeah, but after the 1st 3 there's a reaaaaaaaaal big drop off. Isn't Hong Kong 3rd or 4th?

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Can I say it now ?

          isn't Hong Kong 3rd or 4th?

          It was in 2019, I doubt it will be up there in the next report. It says "As this foreword is being written, the world watches the citizens of Hong Kong attempt to protect their freedom".

      4. Ken 16 Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Can I say it now ?

        Sources? I looked up the World Freedom Index and the UK is No 20, behind the usual suspects such as Uruguay and Chile.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Can I say it now ?

          Hmm, the World Freedom Index is a strangely anonymous thing, no details on the website. It claims to be a summary of three other indices.

          I took my figures from the Cato institute "Human Freedom Index", which claims to use 76 indicators in it's calculations.

          They both seem to show roughly the same general pattern, just differing in precise placings.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can I say it now ?

        So why do the ERG want to scrap the human rights act?

        It's irrelevant how much freedom we have now. What matters is what happens after 31/12/2020 when you and the other brexitters (due mainly to the tabloids you curiously accuse of going the other way) get your wish of aligning our protections from the EU to the US.

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Can I say it now ?

          We're often told that UK workers rights and human rights protections are generally always stronger than the minimums imposed by the EU, so why would they change.

          Which, as you say, blindly ignores the fact we've got people like the ERG and the fucking Home Secretary claiming that these protections are bad and need "reform" (cough... scrapping). Hell, they're currently running a campaign against lawyers for having the cheek to try and make sure the law is followed.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Can I say it now ?

            3 people in this thread don't like human rights!

            Yes, they are going against the courts, the BBC, Ofcom, the civil service... just about anyone who doesn't toe the DomJo party line, but why worry? Boris is such a fun guy! Look at his funny hair!

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Can I say it now ?

      it's in the EU that freedom is guaranteed the best

      Well, yes and no. No if you happen to live in Catalonia and the Spanish government can beat you up and override your democratic decisions. EU is very, very silent.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    As such, the intelligence services will immediately start work on their own interpretations of what phrases like “strictly necessary” and “persistent threat” mean and see if they can fit them within existing laws. If that effort doesn’t hold water, we can probably expect to see new legislation proposed by the government.

    Assuming HMG deigns to take notice of it (and they'll have to if they want* any hope of getting a pass on businesses doing any trade with the EU that involves sharing data) they'll probably just go to the filing cabinet and get out Investigative Powers Act 4.0 or whatever number we're up to now.

    I'm sure they've anticipated this and couched the same old slurping in different terms. It's one thing where we're really world beating.

    * I have serious doubts they even care.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    El Reg guilty too

    Stop calling it metadata El Reg. Just don't.

    It is data. What's collected is actually all the data except for the value of the "content" field.

    All other fields are filled: caller name, caller number, caller location, same for the callee, plus date, time, duration, plus probably more like device type, who was talking (bytes sent), etc.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: El Reg guilty too

      "Stop calling it metadata El Reg. Just don't. It is data."

      It is metadata. Metadata is a specific type of data, so it is data, but it's specifically data about some more data, and so metadata.

      And it is qualitatively different from collecting all data, as well. If I give you the complete metadata about films, you can build all sorts of information about who likely is friends with whom in Hollywood (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, for example), but you still cannot see any movie.

      I'm not saying whether or not governments should collect these data, but metadata is a better description of what is collected.

  5. m-k

    Now countries have to figure out what to do

    follow Russia's examples, with a cherry on top, i.e. some mumble-mumble upon how we will study the ruling in detail and 5 sec later the great (British) public will have forgotten about the whole issue, and what can the little fuckers do about it anyway. Rant on the reg, let them, proves democracy works!

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Half way home

    Excellent news that this has finally been decided. However mass data gathering is not the only problem that will affect our inevitable request for an adequacy decision - quite possibly prevent it being granted. The UK's position on transparency in relation to "national security", whereby it's possible for someone to be convicted of a criminal offence with severe penalties without even their defence counsel being able to discover all the evidence against them will also be a real stumbling block.

    However as nobody here in the UK even seems to be taking any notice of Privacy Shield being struck down - they're just carrying on as before piping our personal data to US slurpers - the position post-December 2020 may come as a bit of a shock. Being British, we keep forgetting that we don't always make the rules, but when EU based agencies and businesses stop exchanging data with us we'll find out the reality that we don't.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Half way home

      "we'll find out the reality that we don't"

      Bu, but, but...we've taken back control.

  7. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

    Current cases in France

    It will be interesting to see the impact on cases in France where restaurant owners are being prosecuted because they provide WiFi access to their customers and don't keep the connection information for one year as mandated by the spying laws...

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Current cases in France

      It's not quite that simple. ISPs in France are required by law to keep logs for a year. If a restaurant pays an ISP to install & run its WiFi, there's no issue. If the restaurant just gets the WiFi kit itself and signs up for an internet connection (which, lets face it, is how most restaurants and cafes do it, paying little heed to security, firewalls, QoS, etc.) the restaurant is then considered to be an ISP supplying internet to its customers, and is subject the the same laws as any other ISP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Current cases in France

        And those logs they are meant to keep fall under the very focus of this ruling. The original poster was correct.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Current cases in France

          The point is that the restaurants are taking the cheap/easy way out & not paying attention to the fact that it defines them as ISPs, who need to keep logs. If they did that for food hygiene laws would anyone be surprised if they were prosecuted?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Current cases in France

            Errrm, if the courts had just ruled hygiene laws illegal, then yes, I would be surprised.

    2. Blazde

      Re: Current cases in France

      'ealf n' safety gone mad

  8. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Not a problem for MI5

    If someone objects they can just torture the lawyer to find out who snitched, and then kill them and the judge and say it was "in the national interest"

  9. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    May as well leave security services to do as they wish collecting data

    Legal frameworks regulating state security data collection activities are, at best, cosmetic and of no avail. This is because ordinary citizens cannot just knock on the door of GCHQ and its like and demand to verify legitimacy of activities. Oversight devolves to government ministers, parliament, judiciary, and perhaps a committee of the Privy Council.

    Government ministers have conflict of interest because they may draw upon information derived from surveillance. As evinced by numerous IT cock-ups presided over by ministers, they, regardless of political party, are (proudly?) ignorant of matters mathematical, scientific, technological, and computational. They are incapable of detecting attempts by sharper minds than theirs to pull wool over their eyes. Parliament and its committees are equally devoid of capacity to detect male bovine excrement.

    Senior judiciary generally have very sharp intelligence but very few are equipped to probe deeply into data related activity at GCHQ, MI5/6, etc. The Privy Council is a non-starter because it supports the Crown, i.e. embedded kakistocracy, rather than subjects of the Crown.

    The only setting where data malfeasance could be detected is during a trial when provenance of information is challenged. That is wholly theoretical in two respects. First, trials bringing forth 'sensitive' information take place behind closed doors. Second, security and police forces need not reveal nefarious means of investigation which are merely 'leads' to findings capable of independent verification (e.g. we acted on a tip off and found the data and physical evidence now presented to the court).

    Thus, there is little point to getting upset about mass surveillance through tapping into the Internet. The strongest objection to mass surveillance rests on its inefficiency. That is, collecting masses of data on off-chance of it being useful is mindless compared to setting skilled people onto targeted investigations.

    Regardless, honest citizens and competent crooks have access to various means of protecting their digital security. At very least they can obfuscate their activities such that mere data trawling does not arouse suspicions for follow-up by targeted surveillance.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: May as well leave security services to do as they wish collecting data

      "Oversight devolves to government ministers, parliament, judiciary, and perhaps a committee of the Privy Council."

      You think Parliament gets an effective role?

      The problem is the government minister bit. They can sign warrants which ought to be limited to the judiciary. At present the judiciary is independent (if you doubt that just remember the judgements against govt. over the last few years) but Cummings isn't happy wit that and wants to get his hands on appointments.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: May as well leave security services to do as they wish collecting data

        Yep, Dom wants to control the judiciary, the BBC, the civil service, Ofcom, , the chancellor of the exchequer, parliament....

        Yet people voted for these dictators...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: May as well leave security services to do as they wish collecting data

          Hey Mr. Downvoter. One day they'll decide to do something unfair that you aren't happy with, and then you'd wish you had a fair media, and an impartial judiciary to fall back on....

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: May as well leave security services to do as they wish collecting data

      That was downright piratical, Long John Silver, ..... and quite like dark web gold for throwing down and around as pearls before swine.

      The bottom line though is, Don't get Caught Holding a Can of Worms .... Everyone and everything exercising power and energy, sharing future views of present situations, is, if systems in place are up and up to running effectively in the secure shady and shadowy backgrounds at the forefront of secured special access back room operations, surveilled and subject to any kind of action by members and agents of organisations/worlds traditionally left well alone and on their own in the dark, for the very best of all the right reasons in classified COSMIC Top Secret/SCI MagiCircles.... Origin Unknown/Suspected Purpose IMPuritanical Tyrannical/Antidote Defence Unavailable/Feared and Believed Almightily Omnipotent and Omniscient/Overwhelmingly Vital and Virulent.

      Invite their worthy interest and displeasure at your peril.

      And surely the Parliamentary estate worker doesn't expect a temporary exemption from state interest surveillance and blanket immunity from persecution and/or prosecution of their failed and fraudulent decisions/action, rather than them taking cold comfort in realising they always be subjects and objects of a more permanent invasive and pervasive search from such a Secretive Rule as may Reign Supreme and Sublime. The former would be tantamount to encouraging MADness and Mayhem out of the Shadows and into the Street and Main Stream Teams and that would Create Orders of CHAOS and Conflict, neither never before seen nor previously experienced or imagined.

      Is that what you want? Yes or No? All those unsure can register a Maybe and A.N.Others will then decide for you.

      Oh, and as Dominic Cummings, a present Government MoJo and BoJo Leading Advisor, found his name mentioned in this thread [AC/Doctor Syntax], I'd like to take this opportunity to say, in relation to all alien matters both recently shared and previously disclosed for discussion both here and elsewhere in the more private surroundings of stealthy silent steganographic communications, ........ Pull you finger out. Pull out the pin and toss the AWEsome Grenade. IT aint No Toy to Ignore sitting Primed for Future APT Action and NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT on the desk in your Pending/In Tray

      Just Let IT Be your "England expect... " Trafalgar moment and a worthy starter crowning achievement for that only opens up the entrance hall door to the rooms of many mansions.

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: May as well leave security services to do as they wish collecting data

      Senior judiciary generally have very sharp intelligence but very few are equipped to probe deeply into data related activity at GCHQ, MI5/6, etc. ...... Long John Silver

      Surely, ideally, none should be equipped to probe deeply into data related activity at GCHQ, MI5/6, etc. Such would only make them an attending accessory to various norms and forms of deep data related activity ...... and that is laden with risks they are not equipped to deal with by any conventional means controlling memes.

      As Spectators and Fans of AWEsome Activities are they most welcome to look, listen and learn of the Future in AI with a Virtual Development Leading Program with Surreal Alienating Projects the Product for and from AI and IT to Present and Realise/Picture and Create and Store as/in a Useful ACTive Memory Device/Hindsight Rich Source ....... now that is a Wondrously Enriched Core Ore the likes of which you would would find it difficult to believe could ever freely exist, engage and prosper precipitately without difficulty for an express ride right to the top of where you are needed to be, program seeding and projects feeding.

  10. ST Silver badge
    Devil

    Now countries have to figure out what to do

    Here's what they'll do: they'll continue doing what they've been doing all along, and they'll lie about it. Maybe you'll get some new and improved lying.

    FTFY. Problem solved. Nothing to see here. Please move along.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignore the ruling.

    Done. Figured out what they'll do.

  12. N2 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Ive every expectation

    The data collected will be 'destroyed'

    Then discovered on a disc from a boot sale in the not too distant future...

    Icon for what should happen to it, without delay >

    1. EnviableOne Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Ive every expectation

      like all the DNA records they are supposed to have removed from the plice database by 5 years ago .....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....and in the mean time............

    .............anyone who wants a LITTLE privacy is using:

    - burner phones

    - VPNs

    - private ciphers

    - hijacked wiFi

    .......and who knows what other means in order to ensure that:

    - the "metadata" is either anonymous....or points to someone else

    - the data will be hard to decipher

    .......and in the mean time, the snoops at GCHQ are collecting LOTS of stuff about perfectly legal activities by perfectly ordinary folk.

    This is why, every time there's a horrible outrage in our streets, we get to hear (much later) that the perps were "already known to the authorities".

    It's a clown show......political theatre at its most sublime!

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: ....and in the mean time............

      It's a clown show......political theatre at its most sublime! ..... Anonymous Coward

      And quietly malignant, AC. Is there a coloured pill to take for that common ill ‽ .

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