In particular, Privacy International asks the telcos to outline company policies for assessing the lawfulness of government requests, and describe any requests they received from authorities to intercept information, any steps taken to oppose or resist such orders, and the amount they have been paid for their cooperation with governments.
"By complying with government requests, companies are unlawfully participating in mass and indiscriminate surveillance and are in breach of Article 8,” said Privacy International.
Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said Tempora's operation would "not have been possible without the complicity" of the named firms. "Despite the companies' obligation to respect human rights standards, particularly when governments seek to violate them, spy agencies are being allowed to conduct mass surveillance on their systems," King said.
Privacy International, which has already filed a complaint about the actions of the UK intelligence services, claimed the companies “colluded” with GCHQ and failed to protect customers’ right to privacy.
Lawyers for the group Privacy International, whose mission is to defend the right to privacy, have written to the chief executives of the telecoms companies identified last week by the German paper Süddeutsche and the Guardian as collaborating in GCHQ's Tempora program.
Some of the world's largest telecommunication companies are facing legal action for colluding with British spy agency GCHQ and failing to protect customers' privacy rights, Privacy International said in a letter issued to the cable providers.
For some time now there has been a need to update understandings of existing human rights law to reflect modern surveillance technologies and techniques.
Steve Hewlett presents a new series about how technology is reshaping notions of privacy. Privacy International Board Chair Anna Fielder joins Steve in this three-part series.
The data regulator began investigating the use of number plate recognition in the town after a complaint in June 2011 by three civil liberties groups: No CCTV, Big Brother Watch and Privacy International.
"Royston police decided to track everyone without any clear reason," said Privacy International executive director Gus Hosein.
"Just because a technology enables mass surveillance, that doesn't mean that it is right to do so."
The investigation carried out by the ICO stemmed from a joint complaint from privacy activist groups Big Brother Watch, Privacy International and No CCTV. The ICO found that Hertfordshire Constabulary failed to carry out "any effective impact assessments" before the system went live.
Complaints had been lodged by the Big Brother Watch, Privacy International and No CCTV, before the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) investigated the matter.
Since mid-2012 the Hebrew University International Human Rights Clinic has been collaborating with Privacy International to produce research about the state of privacy laws and protections in Israel and worldwide.
Last week marked the launch of a long-anticipated pilot of a controversial Israeli biometric database, a project that has been the target of civil society protest and the subject of a challenge in the Israeli Supreme Court.
"If their motivation is to catch terrorists, then are there less intrusive methods than spying on everyone whose traffic happens to transverse the U.K.?" said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.
Mike Rispoli of the privacy campaign group Privacy International said there were no clear rules governing border stops, especially regarding access to electronic data.
"The fact is that when the Terrorism Act was passed [in 2000] phones were very different to what they are now," he told Al Jazeera. "Now our phones carry so much information. They have pictures, they have browsing history and location information, along with text messages and phone numbers. We are operating in a legal framework that is woefully outdated."
Privacy International recently submitted a legal challenge calling on the suspension of Britain’s use of information from the National Security’s Agency Prism programme, and from the Tempora programme of surveillance of emails, phone calls and Skype conversations.
Eric King with the London-based human rights organization Privacy International said today’s finding “wasn’t surprising.” He said Parliament has become too friendly with the intelligence agencies they’re meant to be investigating.
Following reports that the Mexican prosecution authority appears to be not only using FinFisher, but also to be involved in a corruption scandal surrounding the purchase of this intrusive surveillance technology, the Mexican Permanent Commission (composed of members of the Mexican Senate and Congress) has urged Mexico's Federal Institute for Access to Public Information and Data Protection (IFAI) to investigate the use of spyware in Mexico.
The practice is being challenged by Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, Liberty, Privacy International, Index on Censorship, English PEN and Article 19. They have written to Keith Vaz, chair of the select committee, raising their concerns.
Dr Gus Hosein, of the campaign group Privacy International, said: “We are extremely concerned by these intrusive tactics that have been highlighted by the independent terrorism reviewer.
It is a long-standing privacy principle that an individual should have access to their personal information. This is particularly necessary in healthcare - after all there is nothing more personal than health information.
Lawyers acting for the UK charity Privacy International say the programme is not necessary or proportionate. They say the laws being used to justify mass data trawling are being abused by intelligence officials and ministers, and need to be urgently reviewed.
Privacy International has submitted a claim to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which is supposed to review all complaints about the conduct of Britain's spy agencies. The organisation hopes for a public hearing and early rulings because of the seriousness of the situation.
Privacy International has filed a lawsuit in the UK against the government, claiming that the GCHQ spy-agency's Tempora programme violates UK spying regulations.
On the other side of the Atlantic, a separate legal challenge was lodged Monday in response to the government surveillance programs disclosed by Snowden. London-based Privacy International filed a complaint alleging that British spy agency GCHQ may be circumventing U.K. law by obtaining data on British citizens from the NSA’s PRISM Internet surveillance program.
The privacy group has asked the tribunal for a declaration that Tempora is in violation of various regulations including RIPA and the European Convention on Human Rights. It has also asked for an order to destroy all unlawfully obtained material. The complaint also cites rights to privacy and freedom of expression in ECHR to ask the tribunal for a declaration against the Secretary of State for not ensuring that there is in place a legal regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by U.K. authorities of private communications of individuals located in the U.K.
“Secret law is not law,” said Eric King, head of research at London-based Privacy International, which campaigns against intrusion by governments and corporations. “The scope and scale of this program, which monitors the entire British public and much of the world, cannot be justified as necessary and proportionate.”
The organisation announced the legal challenge today claiming that the “expansive spying regime is seemingly operated outside of the rule of law, lacks any accountability, and is neither necessary nor proportionate”.
"It is a fundamental breach of the social contract if the government can operate with unrestrained power in such an arbitrary fashion," Privacy's Eric King said in a statement.
According to Privacy International, the PRISM data-sharing mean the UK government runs an unaccountable surveillance regime that contravenes the European Convention of Human Rights, which gives EU citizens a right to privacy and personal communications, as well as a right to freedom of expression.
Privacy International is concerned at the lack of court oversight of GCHQ’s access to PRISM and over the “indiscriminate interception” and storage of vast amounts of personal data.