EU’s top court paves the way for major reforms of European surveillance laws

Today, the European Court of Justice ruled that the surveillance laws of France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom fail to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms.

These European surveillance systems, which began insidiously twenty years ago, have progressed relentlessly. To the point that what is at stake is bulk data retention - more often referred to as ‘mass surveillance’. Today’s rulings aim to overturn this trend of putting security and law enforcement purposes above the principle of confidentiality of electronic communications data.

While the judgment in the French case does not seem to rule out the possibility of bulk data retention in cases of majors threats to national security, the findings of the Court show the inadequacy of current French laws.

Today’s judgments are yet another strong confirmation from the Court of Justice that national security, law enforcement, and intelligence services are not above the European rule of law,” according to Hugo Roy, who represents Privacy International in the French case, and is an advisor for Data Rights.

Data Rights was founded in 2020 by activists who have been challenging data retention and bulk surveillance laws in France since the Court of Justice’s Digital Rights ruling of 2014. Today’s landmark decisions come after nearly six years of legal actions in French courts to uphold the rights to privacy, data protection, and to an effective remedy, as well as freedom of expression online.

Now the French Conseil d’Etat must stop tiptoeing and will have to apply European human rights standards once and for all,” says Lori Roussey, chair of Data Rights.

With these rulings, European national authorities must now rethink their approach.

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About Data Rights

Data Rights is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2020, with a mission to empower users, organisations and communities, to control their data. We gather activists, hackers, cybersecurity experts, lawyers, designers, programmers: people who care about the impact of data, and want to fight for a vibrant Internet, free from unfair State or business surveillance.