Privacy and Surveillance

The issue

Canada has multiple agencies engaged in national security activities including the CSIS, the RCMP, the CSEC, the CBSA, and others. CCLA has fought for decades to ensure that the powers employed by such agencies are held to strict accountability measures and that these powers do not result in serious mistakes and harm to innocent individuals. 

State policing and intelligence agencies must be subject to limits, accountability mechanisms, and oversight. Without such limits, the agencies can run afoul of the rights and freedoms of innocent individuals, resulting in serious rights abuses and threats to the very democratic foundations of the state.

Our recent work

European Court of Human Rights (ongoing)

CCLA has been able to take the fight for human rights to the global scale. CCLA is participating in this fight because we believe that laws that allow bulk collection of communications data impacts us all

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the scope and reach of mass surveillance in the U.K. CCLA and our international colleagues worked together  to challenge the UK by asking the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) to examine whether the British signals intelligence agency’s was intercepting emails to and from 10 rights and liberties organizations (including CCLA), and to determine whether this was lawful or a breach of the right to privacy. 

CCLA and our partners were successful in this fight and in 2014, the IPT found that UK intelligence agencies had unlawfully spied on the communications of our international colleagues. 

The tribunal also found that UK intelligence sharing with the US, which had been governed under a secret legal framework, was unlawful; however the IPT ruled that these practices may comply with the UK’s human rights obligations. We disagree that this kind of mass interception can ever comply with our human rights and so we launched a case to argue that position. 

On September 13, 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that UK laws enabling mass surveillance do in fact violate rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

the fact that it is now possible for the state to retain private information about the population of a whole nation (or even many nations) and that retaining such information may be operationally useful, does not justify the intrusion of doing so.