November 7, 2017 / 8:08 PM / in a year

Privacy groups challenge UK data surveillance at European court

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Human rights and journalist groups presented their case against Britain’s electronic surveillance program to the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday, in complaints prompted by details of mass spying leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The cases are the latest legal challenge to the UK in a long-running spy scandal following revelations by the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor in 2013, which renewed debates over privacy versus security.

The 15 groups, including the London-based Big Brother Watch organization, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and former Guardian reporter Alice Ross, argued they are potential targets of the programs, although they cannot prove their own data was collected.

They said the programs could threaten the privacy of journalists, who may fear their contact lists or the websites they visit are being scrutinized by the government.

“Such data enables intrusion into the most intimate aspects of a person’s daily life,” Dinah Rose, one of the applicants’ lawyers, told the court.

The British government’s counsel, James Eadie, said the programs were necessary in the fight against terrorism.

“The core problem at the heart of the applicants’ case is that they seek to conjure up, by reference to what we suggest are grossly inaccurate speculations presented as fact, a specter of vast privacy intrusion,” he told the court.

The court’s decision is expected in the next few months.

Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac in Strasbourg and Michel Rose in Paris; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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