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Big Brother and others v. United Kingdom, Nos. 58170/13, 62322/14, 24960/15, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 25 May 2021


Mass surveillance to prevent terrorism and other serious crime. Right to private and family life. Freedom of expression. 

Normative references

Art. 8 ECHR 
Art. 10 ECHR


1. Bulk interception of communication, as governed by UK law, is not subject to an assessment of necessity and proportionality (checking, for example: that bulk interception is subject to independent authorization at the outset; that the object and scope of the operation are well defined; that the operation is subject to supervision and independent ex post facto review). Although states enjoy a high margin of appreciation in deciding what kind of surveillance is necessary to protect their own national security, there is a violation of art. 8 ECHR. 

2. There is no violation of art. 8 ECHR in the UK regime allowing the exchange of information with foreign intelligence services. As a matter of fact, supervision and review conducted by UK independent bodies on these operations are adequate. 

3. The UK regime allowing the acquisition of data from service providers violates art. 8 ECHR, insofar as circumstances under which data can be acquired are not "in accordance with the law". 

4. UK surveillance regime violates art. 10 ECHR, insofar as no special safeguards are provided when material requiring special confidentiality – such as confidential journalistic material – is transferred.