European courts begin rulings against mass surveillance

Jan 19, 2016 11:09 pm
European courts recent rulings might outlaw mass surveillance. In Roman Zakharov v. Russia the court said a surveillance authorization “must clearly identify a specific person … or a single set of premises.” And, then, from Hungary, a court gets more specific. Sharon St. Vincent at CDT writes, "In [the court case] Szabo and Vissy [the court] considered whether the challenged Hungarian laws provide, 'adequate and effective guarantees against abuse.' The answer was no: the phrase 'strictly necessary in a democratic society,' the Court explained for the first time, means not only that a surveillance measure must be strictly necessary for 'safeguarding the democratic institutions' at a general level, but must also be 'strictly necessary … for the obtaining of vital intelligence in an individual operation.' Crucially, the Court added that the Hungarian authorities must therefore interpret a law allowing surveillance authorizations to apply to 'a range of persons'—which, as the Court observed, could potentially include everyone in Hungary—very narrowly. According to the Court, the body authorizing the surveillance must 'verify whether sufficient reasons for intercepting a specific individual’s communications exist in each case.' Analysts are waiting to see if courts cite these precedents to strike down mass surveillance programs in Europe.