Apple is selling the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in Germany again

Two older iPhone models are back on sale in Apple stores in Germany — but only with Qualcomm chips inside. The iPhone maker was forced to pull the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models from shelves in its online shop and physical stores in the country last month, after chipmaker Qualcomm posted security bonds to enforce a […]

Two older iPhone models are back on sale in Apple stores in Germany — but only with Qualcomm chips inside.

The iPhone maker was forced to pull the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models from shelves in its online shop and physical stores in the country last month, after chipmaker Qualcomm posted security bonds to enforce a December court injunction it secured via patent litigation.

Apple told Reuters it had “no choice” but to stop using some Intel chips for handsets to be sold in Germany. “Qualcomm is attempting to use injunctions against our products to try to get Apple to succumb to their extortionist demands,” it said in a statement provided to the news agency.

Apple and Qualcomm have been embroiled in an increasingly bitter global legal battle around patents and licensing terms for several years.

The litigation follows Cupertino’s move away from using only Qualcomm’s chips in iPhones after, in 2016, Apple began sourcing modem chips from rival Intel — dropping Qualcomm chips entirely for last year’s iPhone models. Though still using some Qualcomm chips for older iPhone models, as it will now for iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 units headed to Germany.

For these handsets Apple is swapping out Intel modems that contain chips from Qorvo which are subject to the local patent litigation injunction. (The litigation relates to a patented smartphone power management technology.) 

Hence Apple’s Germany webstore is once again listing the two older iPhone models for sale…

Newer iPhones containing Intel chips remain on sale in Germany because they do not containing the same components subject to the patent injunction.

“Intel’s modem products are not involved in this lawsuit and are not subject to this or any other injunction,” Intel’s general counsel, Steven Rodgers, said in a statement to Reuters.

While Apple’s decision to restock its shelves with Qualcomm-only iPhone 7s and 8s represents a momentary victory for Qualcomm, a separate German court tossed another of its patent suits against Apple last month — dismissing it as groundless. (Qualcomm said it would appeal.)

The chipmaker has also been pursing patent litigation against Apple in China, and in December Apple appealed a preliminary injunction banning the import and sales of old iPhone models in the country.

At the same time, Qualcomm and Apple are both waiting the result of an antitrust trial brought against Qualcomm’s licensing terms in the U.S.

Two years ago the FTC filed charges against Qualcomm, accusing the chipmaker of operating a monopoly and forcing exclusivity from Apple while charging “excessive” licensing fees for standards-essential patents.

The case was heard last month and is pending a verdict or settlement.

Apple Italia has been compelled to post an advisory statement regarding iPhone throttling

The Cupertino tech giant has published an advisory statement on its Italian website to inform the public about the whole planned obsolescence saga.

The Cupertino tech giant has published an advisory statement on its Italian website to inform the public about the whole planned obsolescence saga.

Sprint calls AT&T’s 5G E label ‘false advertising’ in new lawsuit

While it’s true that it’s going to take some time before most of us will actually be able to enjoy the benefits of 5G, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit back and enjoy the fireworks right now. AT&T’s adoption of the “5G Evolution” label has already been controversial among industry followers and fellow carriers alike, […]

While it’s true that it’s going to take some time before most of us will actually be able to enjoy the benefits of 5G, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit back and enjoy the fireworks right now. AT&T’s adoption of the “5G Evolution” label has already been controversial among industry followers and fellow carriers alike, for watering down the meaning of next-gen connectivity — and now Sprint is looking to do something about it.

The carrier filed suit against what it called “false advertising and deceptive acts” relating to AT&T’s 5G E. The suit notes, rightly, that Sprint, AT&T and other major carriers are all jostling to be first to market, “but calling its network 5G E […] does not make it a 5G network.” In fact, the network is more akin to advanced LTE.

AT&T called itself “[the] first U.S. mobile company to introduce mobile 5G service in a dozen markets by late 2018” courtesy of the label, in a much maligned attempt to plant its flag. It’s similar to tactics used by the carrier ahead of the rollout of LTE. AT&T has largely waved away criticism, stating that it’s happy that such moves have gotten it into the heads of the competition.

That may be true, but anyone who’s watched the industry with even passing interest knows that real network advances take time, and this sort of branding goes a ways toward muddying up consumer understanding. The suit goes on to claim that the 5GE label violates state and federal false advertising laws and does damage to competitors like Sprint, who are invested in the slower roll out of true 5G.

Update: AT&T is standing defiant on this one. Here’s their statement.

We understand why our competitors don’t like what we are doing, but our customers love it.  We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G.  5G Evolution and the 5GE indicator simply let customers know when their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available.  That’s what 5G Evolution is, and we are delighted to deliver it to our customers.

We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G.  Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds. Sprint will have to reconcile its arguments to the FCC that it cannot deploy a widespread 5G network without T-Mobile while simultaneously claiming in this suit to be launching ‘legitimate 5G technology imminently.

Woody Allen just sued Amazon for $68 million

Woody Allen filed a $68 million suit with the Southern District of New York today over a four-picture deal with Amazon. The suit arrives as Allen’s latest film, “A Rainy Day in New York” has been set in limbo, months after release. The film, which stars Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning and Jude Law, among others, […]

Woody Allen filed a $68 million suit with the Southern District of New York today over a four-picture deal with Amazon. The suit arrives as Allen’s latest film, “A Rainy Day in New York” has been set in limbo, months after release.

The film, which stars Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning and Jude Law, among others, has been shelved following the latest round of controversy around the filmmaker’s 1992 sexual assault allegations. A number of the film’s stars have since expressed regret at participating in the picture and others have agreed to donate their salaries to charity.

“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen,” the suit reads, “and, in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract,” the suit alleges. “There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege on its promises.”

The Amazon/Allen deal has already resulted in the release of two films — “Wonder Wheel” and “Cafe Society” — with more on the way. As Variety notes, the initial agreement was met with a then tongue-in-cheek comment from Allen, stating, “Like all beginning relationships, there is much hope, mutual affection and genuine goodwill — the lawsuits come later.” 

The rise of the Me Too movement, however, brought past Allen allegations back into the spotlight, and Amazon has noted the increased scrutiny it has experienced as a result.

Woody Allen just sued Amazon for $68 million

Woody Allen filed a $68 million suit with the Southern District of New York today over a four-picture deal with Amazon. The suit arrives as Allen’s latest film, “A Rainy Day in New York” has been set in limbo, months after release. The film, which stars Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning and Jude Law, among others, […]

Woody Allen filed a $68 million suit with the Southern District of New York today over a four-picture deal with Amazon. The suit arrives as Allen’s latest film, “A Rainy Day in New York” has been set in limbo, months after release.

The film, which stars Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning and Jude Law, among others, has been shelved following the latest round of controversy around the filmmaker’s 1992 sexual assault allegations. A number of the film’s stars have since expressed regret at participating in the picture and others have agreed to donate their salaries to charity.

“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen,” the suit reads, “and, in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract,” the suit alleges. “There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege on its promises.”

The Amazon/Allen deal has already resulted in the release of two films — “Wonder Wheel” and “Cafe Society” — with more on the way. As Variety notes, the initial agreement was met with a then tongue-in-cheek comment from Allen, stating, “Like all beginning relationships, there is much hope, mutual affection and genuine goodwill — the lawsuits come later.” 

The rise of the Me Too movement, however, brought past Allen allegations back into the spotlight, and Amazon has noted the increased scrutiny it has experienced as a result.

The plot to revive Mt. Gox and repay victims’ Bitcoin

It was the Lehman Brothers of blockchain. 850,000 Bitcoin disappeared when cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox imploded in 2014 after a series of hacks. The incident cemented the industry’s reputation as frighteningly insecure. Now a controversial crypto celebrity named Brock Pierce is trying to get the Mt. Gox flameout’s 24,000 victims their money back and build a […]

It was the Lehman Brothers of blockchain. 850,000 Bitcoin disappeared when cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox imploded in 2014 after a series of hacks. The incident cemented the industry’s reputation as frighteningly insecure. Now a controversial crypto celebrity named Brock Pierce is trying to get the Mt. Gox flameout’s 24,000 victims their money back and build a new company from the ashes.

Pierce spoke to TechCrunch for the first interview about Gox Rising — his plan to reboot the Mt. Gox brand and challenge Coinbase and Binance for the title of top cryptocurrency exchange. He claims there’s around $630 million and 150,000 Bitcoin waiting in the Mt. Gox bankruptcy trust, and Pierce wants to solve the legal and technical barriers to getting those assets distributed back to their rightful owners.

The consensus from several blockchain startup CEOs I spoke with was that the plot is “crazy”, but that it also has the potential to right one of the biggest wrongs marring the history of Bitcoin.

The Fall Of Mt. Gox

But the story starts with Magic: The Gathering. Mt. Gox launched in 2006 as a place for players of the fantasy card game to trade monsters and spells before cryptocurrency came of age. The Magic: The Gathering Online eXchange wasn’t designed to safeguard huge quantities of Bitcoin from legions of hackers, but founder Jed McCaleb pivoted the site in 2010. Seeking to focus on other projects, he gave 88 percent of the company to French software engineer Mark Karpeles, and kept 12 percent. By 2013, the Tokyo-based Mt. Gox had become the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, handling 70 percent of all Bitcoin trades. But security breaches, technology problems, and regulations were already plaguing the service.

Then everything fell apart. In February 2014, Mt. Gox halted withdrawls due to what it called a bug in Bitcoin, trapping assets in user accounts. Mt. Gox discovered that it had lost over 700,000 Bitcoins due to theft over the past few years. By the end of the month, it had suspended all trading and filed for bankruptcy protection, which would contribute to a 36 percent decline in Bitcoin’s price. It admitted that 100,000 of its own Bitcoin atop 750,000 owned by customers had been stolen.

Mt. Gox is now undergoing bankruptcy rehabilitation in Japan overseen by court-appointed trustee and veteran bankruptcy lawyer Nobuaki Kobayashi to establish a process for compensating the 24,000 victims who filed claims. There’s now 137,892 Bitcoin, 162,106 Bitcoin Cash, and some other forked coins in Mt. Gox’s holdings, along with $630 million from the sale of 25 percent of the Bitcoin Kobayashi handled at a precient price point above where it is today. But five years later, creditors still haven’t been paid back. 

A Rescue Attempt

Brock Pierce, the eccentric crypto celebrity

Pierce had actually tried to acquire Mt. Gox in 2013. The child actor known from The Mighty Ducks had gone on to work with a talent management company called Digital Entertainment Network. But accusations of sex crime led Pierce and some team members to flee the US to Spain until they were extradited back. Pierce wasn’t charged and paid roughly $21,000 to settle civil suits, but his cohorts were convicted of child molestation and child pornography.

The situation still haunts Pierce’s reputation and makes some in the industry apprehensive to be associated with him. But he managed to break into the virtual currency business, setting up World Of Warcraft gold mining farms in China. He claims to have eventually run the world’s largest exchanges for WOW Gold and Second Life Linden Dollars.

Soon Pierce was becoming a central figure in the blockchain scene. He co-founded Blockchain Capital, and eventually the EOS Alliance as well as a “crypto utopia” in Puerto Rico called Sol. His eccentric, Burning Man-influenced fashion made him easy to spot at the industry’s many conferences.

As Bitcoin and Mt. Gox rose in late 2012, Pierce tried to buy it, but “my biggest investor was Goldman Sachs. Goldman was not a fan of me buying the biggest Bitcoin exchange” due to the regulatory issues, Pierce tells me. But he also suspected the exchange was built on a shaky technical foundation that led him to stop pursuing the deal. “I thought there was a big risk factor in the Mt. Gox back-end. That was may intuition and I’m glad I was because my intuition was dead right.”

After Mt. Gox imploded, Pierce claims his investment group Sunlot Holdings successfully bought founder McCaleb’s 12 percent stake for 1 Bitcoin, though McCaleb says he didn’t receive the Bitcoin and it’s not clear if the deal went through. Pierce also claims he had a binding deal with Karpeles to buy the other 88 percent of Mt. Gox, but that Karpeles tried to pull out of the deal that remains in legal limbo.

The Supposed Villain

The Sunlot has since been trying to handle the bankruptcy proceedings, but that arrangement was derailed by a lawsuit from CoinLab. That company had partnered with Mt. Gox to run its North American operations but claimed it never received the necessary assets, and sued Mt. Gox for $75 million, though Mt. Gox countersued saying CoinLab wasn’t legally certified to run the exchange in the US and that it hadn’t returned $5.3 million in customer deposits. For a detailed account the tangle of lawsuits, check out Reuters’ deep-dive into the Mt. Gox fiasco.

CoinLab co-founder Peter Vessenes

This week, CoinLab co-founder Peter Vessenes increased the claim and is now seeking $16 billion. Pierce alleges “this is a frivolous lawsuit. He’s claiming if [the partnership with Mt. Gox] hadn’t been cancelled, CoinLab would have been Coinbase and is suing for all the value. He believes Coinbase is worth $16 billion so he should be paid $16 billion. He embezzled money from Mt. Gox, he committed a crime, and he’s trying to extort the creditors. He’s holding up the entire process hoping he’ll get a payday.” Later, Pierce reiterated that “Coinlab is the villain trying to take all the money and see creditors get nothing.” Industry sources I spoke to agreed with that characterization

Mt. Gox customers worried that they might only receive the cash equivalent of their Bitcoin according to the currency’s $486 value when Gox closed in 2014. That’s despite the rise in Bitcoin’s value rising to around 7X that today, and as high as 40X at the currency’s peak. Luckily, in June 2018 a Japanese District Court halted bankruptcy proceedings and sent Mt. Gox into civil rehabilitation which means the company’s assets would be distributed to its creditors (the users) instead of liquidated. It also declared that users would be paid back their lost Bitcoin rather than the old cash value.

The Plan For Gox Rising

Now Pierce and Sunlot are attempting another rescue of Mt. Gox’s  $1.2 billion assets. He wants to track down the remaining cryptocurrency that’s missing, have it all fairly valued, and then distribute the maximum amount to the robbed users with Mt. Gox equity shareholders including himself receiving nothing.

That’s a much better deal for creditors than if Mt. Gox paid out the undervalued sum, and then shareholders like Pierce got to keep the remaining Bitcoins or proceeds of their sale at today’s true value. “I‘ve been very blessed in my life. I did commit to giving my first billion away” Pierce notes, joking that this plan could account for the first $700 million he plans to ‘donate’.

“Like Game Of Thrones, the last season of Mt. Gox hasn’t been written” Pierce tells me, speaking in terms HBO’s Silicon Valley would be quick to parody. “What kind of ending do we want to make for it? I’m a Joseph Campbell fan so I’m obviously going to go with a hero’s journey, with a rise and a fall, and then a rise from the ashes like a phoenix.”

But to make this happen, Sunlot needs at least half of those Mt. Gox users seeking compensation, or roughly 12,000 that represent the majority of assets, to sign up to join a creditors committee. That’s where GoxRising.com comes in. The plan is to have users join the committee there so they can present a united voice to Kobayashi about how they want Mt. Gox’s assets distributed. “I think that would allow the process to move faster than it would otherise. Things are on track to be resolved in the next three to five years. If [a majority of creditors sign on] this could be resolved in maybe 1 year.

Beyond providing whatever the Mt. Gox estate pays out, Pierce wants to create a Gox Coin that gives original Mt Gox creditors a stake in the new company. He plans to have all of Mt. Gox’s equity wiped out, including his own. Then he’ll arrange to finance and tokenize an independent foundation governed by the creditors that will seek to recover additional lost Mt. Gox assets and then distribute them pro rata to the Gox Coin holders. There are plenty of unanswered questions about the regulatory status of a Gox Coin and what holders would be entitled to, Pierce admits.

Meanwhile, Pierce is bidding to buy the intangibles of Mt. Gox, aka the brand and domain. He wants to then relaunch it as a Gox or Mt. Gox exchange that doesn’t provide custody itself for higher security.

“We want to offer [creditors] more than the bankruptcy trustee can do on its own” Pierce tells me. He concedes that the venture isn’t purely altruistic. “If the exchange is very successful I stand to benefit sometime down the road.” Still, he stands by his plan, even if the revived Mt. Gox never rises to legitimately challenge Binance, Coinbase, and other leading exchanges. Pierce concludes, “Whether we’re successful or not, I want to see the creditors made whole.” Those creditors will have to decide for themselves who to trust.

Instacart faces class-action lawsuit regarding wages and tips

Instacart is facing another class-action lawsuit pertaining to the way it pays its independent contractors, NBC News reports. Instacart guarantees its workers at least $10 per job, but workers are alleging Instacart offsets wages with tips from customers. The suit alleges Instacart “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though […]

Instacart is facing another class-action lawsuit pertaining to the way it pays its independent contractors, NBC News reports. Instacart guarantees its workers at least $10 per job, but workers are alleging Instacart offsets wages with tips from customers.

The suit alleges Instacart “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though Instacart maintained that 100 percent of customer tips went directly to shoppers. Based on this representation, Instacart knew customers would believe their tips were being given to shoppers in addition to wages, not to supplement wages entirely.”

Instacart has had a rocky relationship over the years with its drivers and shoppers. In 2016, Instacart removed the option to tip in favor of guaranteeing higher delivery commissions. About a month later, following pressure from shoppers, the company reintroduced tipping.

In 2017, Instacart settled a $4.6 million suit regarding claims that the company misclassified its personal shoppers as independent contractors, and also failed to reimburse them for work expenses. As part of the settlement, Instacart was required to change the way it described a service fee, which many people mistakenly thought meant tip. Then, last April, Instacart began suggesting a 5 percent default tip.

In addition to the lawsuit, workers have taken to Reddit and other online forums to speak out against Instacart’s paying practices. Since introducing a new payments structure in October, which includes things like payments per mile, quality bonuses and customer tips, workers have said the pay has gotten worse — far below minimum wage. In one case, Instacart paid a worker just 80 cents for over an hour of work. Instacart has since said it was a glitch — caused by the fact that the customer tipped $10 — and has introduced a new minimum payment for orders. So, Instacart paid the worker $10.80, but just 80 cents of it came from Instacart.

“In other words, Instacart is now confirming what workers have been saying since the change in pay structure: that the company is actually using customers’ tips to pay workers’ wages,” Working Washington, a workers’ organization that represents nearly 2,000 Instacart shoppers, wrote on its blog. “When a customer tips up-front, it doesn’t mean extra money for the worker. Instacart just pays the worker less to make up for it.”

While Instacart has said this was an edge case, Working Washington says this has happened in other cases. In another case, Instacart paid a worker just $7.26 (including cost of mileage) for over two hour’s worth of work.

“Obvious explanation: the customer tipped $25,” the organization writes.

It’s not totally clear how widespread this issue is, but it does not appear to be an anomaly, according to Working Washington.

“My sense is that the pay cuts are pretty much universal — workers pretty consistently reporting getting 25% or so less after the change,” Sage Wilson, an organizer at Working Washington, told TechCrunch. “The taking tips part they have admitted is policy for smaller jobs but we have seen good evidence that it extends further than that. We have a page with some collected screenshots here: https://www.workingwa.org/instacart/receipts.”

Next week, this group plans to hold a meeting for Instacart workers nationwide. Similarly, DoorDash is also under fire, with workers alleging DoorDash is paying drivers less, depending on how much they get tipped.

TechCrunch reached out to Instacart several hours ago and has yet to receive a response. We are also awaiting comment from DoorDash.

Instacart faces class-action lawsuit regarding wages and tips

Instacart is facing another class-action lawsuit pertaining to the way it pays its independent contractors, NBC News reports. Instacart guarantees its workers at least $10 per job, but workers are alleging Instacart offsets wages with tips from customers. The suit alleges Instacart “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though […]

Instacart is facing another class-action lawsuit pertaining to the way it pays its independent contractors, NBC News reports. Instacart guarantees its workers at least $10 per job, but workers are alleging Instacart offsets wages with tips from customers.

The suit alleges Instacart “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though Instacart maintained that 100 percent of customer tips went directly to shoppers. Based on this representation, Instacart knew customers would believe their tips were being given to shoppers in addition to wages, not to supplement wages entirely.”

Instacart has had a rocky relationship over the years with its drivers and shoppers. In 2016, Instacart removed the option to tip in favor of guaranteeing higher delivery commissions. About a month later, following pressure from shoppers, the company reintroduced tipping.

In 2017, Instacart settled a $4.6 million suit regarding claims that the company misclassified its personal shoppers as independent contractors, and also failed to reimburse them for work expenses. As part of the settlement, Instacart was required to change the way it described a service fee, which many people mistakenly thought meant tip. Then, last April, Instacart began suggesting a 5 percent default tip.

In addition to the lawsuit, workers have taken to Reddit and other online forums to speak out against Instacart’s paying practices. Since introducing a new payments structure in October, which includes things like payments per mile, quality bonuses and customer tips, workers have said the pay has gotten worse — far below minimum wage. In one case, Instacart paid a worker just 80 cents for over an hour of work. Instacart has since said it was a glitch — caused by the fact that the customer tipped $10 — and has introduced a new minimum payment for orders. So, Instacart paid the worker $10.80, but just 80 cents of it came from Instacart.

“In other words, Instacart is now confirming what workers have been saying since the change in pay structure: that the company is actually using customers’ tips to pay workers’ wages,” Working Washington, a workers’ organization that represents nearly 2,000 Instacart shoppers, wrote on its blog. “When a customer tips up-front, it doesn’t mean extra money for the worker. Instacart just pays the worker less to make up for it.”

While Instacart has said this was an edge case, Working Washington says this has happened in other cases. In another case, Instacart paid a worker just $7.26 (including cost of mileage) for over two hour’s worth of work.

“Obvious explanation: the customer tipped $25,” the organization writes.

It’s not totally clear how widespread this issue is, but it does not appear to be an anomaly, according to Working Washington.

“My sense is that the pay cuts are pretty much universal — workers pretty consistently reporting getting 25% or so less after the change,” Sage Wilson, an organizer at Working Washington, told TechCrunch. “The taking tips part they have admitted is policy for smaller jobs but we have seen good evidence that it extends further than that. We have a page with some collected screenshots here: https://www.workingwa.org/instacart/receipts.”

Next week, this group plans to hold a meeting for Instacart workers nationwide. Similarly, DoorDash is also under fire, with workers alleging DoorDash is paying drivers less, depending on how much they get tipped.

TechCrunch reached out to Instacart several hours ago and has yet to receive a response. We are also awaiting comment from DoorDash.

Europe’s highest human rights court to hear challenge to UK’s bulk surveillance regime

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has agreed to hear a legal challenge to the use of bulk data collection surveillance powers by UK intelligence agencies. Last September a lower chamber of the ECHR ruled that UK surveillance practices violated human rights law but did not find bulk collection itself […]

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has agreed to hear a legal challenge to the use of bulk data collection surveillance powers by UK intelligence agencies.

Last September a lower chamber of the ECHR ruled that UK surveillance practices violated human rights law but did not find bulk collection itself to be in violation of the convention.

The civil and digital groups and charities behind the challenge, which include Liberty, Privacy International and Amnesty International, are hoping for a definitive judgement against bulk collection from Europe’s highest human rights court.

The legal challenge dates back around five years, and stems from the 2013 disclosures of government surveillance programs revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden .

The ECHR’s lower court heard an amalgam of complaints from three cases. And in a landmark judgement last fall it found the UK’s bulk interception regime had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (a right to respect for private and family life/communications); and Article 10 (the right to freedom of expression and information).

The court found there was insufficient oversight of the Internet infrastructure and communications selected for interception and searching; and also insufficient safeguards for journalistic material.

The court also ruled against the government’s regime for obtaining data from communications service providers, finding it violated both articles.

But the judges declined to find the state surveillance regime unlawful on the grounds that it constituted “general and indiscriminate” retention of data.

This is important because the legal framework around surveillance in the UK had already been superseded — with the Investigatory Powers Act, which was passed in 2016 — enshrining a number of bulk powers in law, alongside what the government bills as an adequate oversight framework. (Though it has since been forced by domestic courts to rework certain aspects of the legislation judged to be disproportionate.)

The groups behind the human rights challenge argue the lower court’s judgment “did not go far enough with regard to the unlawfulness of bulk interception powers and the fundamental shortcomings in inter-state intelligence sharing based on communications intercepts”.

Hence now pushing for an overarching judgement from judges in the Grand Chamber which — if it goes their way — could force the UK to radically rethink its approach to intelligence capabilities and put a check on the creeping encroachment of state surveillance.

Commenting in a statement, Caroline Wilson Palow, general counsel at Privacy International, said: “The UK Government continues to intercept enormous volumes of internet traffic flowing across its borders. And it continues to have access to similarly vast troves of information intercepted by the US Government. We call on the Court to reject these mass surveillance practices and find that they are fundamentally incompatible with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.”

“The surveillance regime that the UK Government has built seriously undermines our freedom. Spying on vast numbers of people without suspicion of wrongdoing violates everyone’s rights to privacy and free expression, and can never be lawful,” added Megan Goulding, lawyer for Liberty, in another statement. “We welcome the opportunity from the Court to prove that indiscriminate state snooping is incompatible with our rights.  We need a rights-respecting and targeted surveillance system — not one where everyone is treated as a suspect as they go about their everyday lives.”

Also commenting in a statement, Lucy Claridge, director of strategic litigation at Amnesty International, said: “Industrial scale mass surveillance makes it incredibly difficult for organisations such as Amnesty International to carry out their vital human rights work. It’s critical that they are able to seek and receive information of public interest from their confidential sources, free from government intrusion.”

There’s little prospect of an imminent check on the UK’s current bulk-based surveillance modus operandi via this legal route, with what could be a wait of several years before the Grand Chamber even hears the case. 

Add to that, at that unknown future time it’s still anyone’s guess whether the UK — which is in the process of trying to determine how it will exit the European Union — will still be a party to the European convention on human rights or not.

While the ECHR is attached to the Council of Europe, rather than the EU itself, some elements of the Conservative Party have been pushing to pull the UK out of the convention too. Which throws a potential future spanner in the works of this rights based challenge.

Europe’s highest human rights court to hear challenge to UK’s bulk surveillance regime

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has agreed to hear a legal challenge to the use of bulk data collection surveillance powers by UK intelligence agencies. Last September a lower chamber of the ECHR ruled that UK surveillance practices violated human rights law but did not find bulk collection itself […]

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has agreed to hear a legal challenge to the use of bulk data collection surveillance powers by UK intelligence agencies.

Last September a lower chamber of the ECHR ruled that UK surveillance practices violated human rights law but did not find bulk collection itself to be in violation of the convention.

The civil and digital groups and charities behind the challenge, which include Liberty, Privacy International and Amnesty International, are hoping for a definitive judgement against bulk collection from Europe’s highest human rights court.

The legal challenge dates back around five years, and stems from the 2013 disclosures of government surveillance programs revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden .

The ECHR’s lower court heard an amalgam of complaints from three cases. And in a landmark judgement last fall it found the UK’s bulk interception regime had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (a right to respect for private and family life/communications); and Article 10 (the right to freedom of expression and information).

The court found there was insufficient oversight of the Internet infrastructure and communications selected for interception and searching; and also insufficient safeguards for journalistic material.

The court also ruled against the government’s regime for obtaining data from communications service providers, finding it violated both articles.

But the judges declined to find the state surveillance regime unlawful on the grounds that it constituted “general and indiscriminate” retention of data.

This is important because the legal framework around surveillance in the UK had already been superseded — with the Investigatory Powers Act, which was passed in 2016 — enshrining a number of bulk powers in law, alongside what the government bills as an adequate oversight framework. (Though it has since been forced by domestic courts to rework certain aspects of the legislation judged to be disproportionate.)

The groups behind the human rights challenge argue the lower court’s judgment “did not go far enough with regard to the unlawfulness of bulk interception powers and the fundamental shortcomings in inter-state intelligence sharing based on communications intercepts”.

Hence now pushing for an overarching judgement from judges in the Grand Chamber which — if it goes their way — could force the UK to radically rethink its approach to intelligence capabilities and put a check on the creeping encroachment of state surveillance.

Commenting in a statement, Caroline Wilson Palow, general counsel at Privacy International, said: “The UK Government continues to intercept enormous volumes of internet traffic flowing across its borders. And it continues to have access to similarly vast troves of information intercepted by the US Government. We call on the Court to reject these mass surveillance practices and find that they are fundamentally incompatible with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.”

“The surveillance regime that the UK Government has built seriously undermines our freedom. Spying on vast numbers of people without suspicion of wrongdoing violates everyone’s rights to privacy and free expression, and can never be lawful,” added Megan Goulding, lawyer for Liberty, in another statement. “We welcome the opportunity from the Court to prove that indiscriminate state snooping is incompatible with our rights.  We need a rights-respecting and targeted surveillance system — not one where everyone is treated as a suspect as they go about their everyday lives.”

Also commenting in a statement, Lucy Claridge, director of strategic litigation at Amnesty International, said: “Industrial scale mass surveillance makes it incredibly difficult for organisations such as Amnesty International to carry out their vital human rights work. It’s critical that they are able to seek and receive information of public interest from their confidential sources, free from government intrusion.”

There’s little prospect of an imminent check on the UK’s current bulk-based surveillance modus operandi via this legal route, with what could be a wait of several years before the Grand Chamber even hears the case. 

Add to that, at that unknown future time it’s still anyone’s guess whether the UK — which is in the process of trying to determine how it will exit the European Union — will still be a party to the European convention on human rights or not.

While the ECHR is attached to the Council of Europe, rather than the EU itself, some elements of the Conservative Party have been pushing to pull the UK out of the convention too. Which throws a potential future spanner in the works of this rights based challenge.