Bulk retention of private-sector subscriber data for governmental purposes does not violate the Convention: Breyer v. Germany

Judith Vermeulen is a doctoral researcher and a member of the Law & Technology research group, the Human Rights Centre and PIXLES at Ghent University.

On January 30, 2020, in the case of Breyer v. Germany, the European Court of Human Rights ruled by six votes to one that the – legally required – indiscriminate storage of subscriber information by telecommunication service providers does not violate Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Amongst other things, the Court found that the interference at hand was rather limited in nature, thereby conveniently invoking Court of Justice jurisprudence which suited its point of view this time. Contrary to what judge Ranzoni argued in his dissenting opinion, the Court in Strasbourg was however not wrong in reaching this conclusion. The dissenter’s criticism regarding the insufficiency of the safeguards circumscribing the measure, on the other hand, was not without reasons. Continue reading

Another case of violating privacy and personal data protection: Catt v. the United Kingdom

This blogpost was written by Judith Vermeulen, PhD researcher in the Law and Technology Research Group at Ghent University.

Shortly after Big Brother Watch (see also the blogpost for this case), the European Court of Human Rights again had the opportunity to pronounce itself on the compatibility of Article 8 ECHR with the collection, retention and further use of personal data for public interest purposes by UK authorities. Catt, however, does not involve an assessment of the data processing regime as such. Rather, it evaluates the specific situation the applicant is in. While the question of adequacy of the legal and regulatory framework surrounding the impugned measures remains unanswered, the processing of the applicant’s data in particular is considered to not pass the necessity test. Noteworthy in any case is that the Court – in contrast to what the EU Court of Justice has decided in the past – reiterates that the indiscriminate collection of personal data is justifiable. With Brexit looming – and the CJEU accordingly soon losing its jurisdiction vis-à-vis Britain –, this development in the Strasbourg case-law is of particular importance. Finally, it is questionable whether Article 8 is in fact the best legal ground for assessing the facts of this case. The discussions these provoked at national may illustrate this point. Continue reading