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Cybersecurity & Standards, Government Surveillance

Third-Party Intervention in Szabó and Vissy v. Hungary

Today, CDT filed a third-party intervention—the equivalent of an amicus curiae brief—in the European Court of Human Rights case Szabó and Vissy v. Hungary.  The case concerns a piece of Hungarian legislation adopted in 2011, which allows the Hungarian police to conduct certain types of secret intelligence-gathering on grounds of national security without any judicial oversight.  This intelligence-gathering can include, among other things, searching and recording the content of a person’s electronic devices and communications without his or her consent.

The applicants in the case, a pair of Hungarian human-rights experts, challenged this law in the Hungarian Constitutional Court before bringing the case to the European Court of Human Rights.  They argued that the Hungarian law violates several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, including, among others, the right to respect for one’s private life and correspondence (Article 8 of the Convention), and the right to an effective remedy for human-rights violations (Article 13).

As interveners, CDT argued that although the European Court has not always required that surveillance oversight programs be judicial, the dramatic increase in countries’ secret-surveillance capabilities in recent years—as well as the proliferation of intelligence data-sharing arrangements between countries—means that judicial oversight of secret surveillance is now a necessity in order to ensure full respect for individuals’ privacy rights.  We also set out criteria for determining whether someone has access to an effective remedy for any violations of his or her privacy rights that occur in this context.