Case Studies

Case studies

DFF supports strategic litigation to advance digital rights in Europe, by providing financial support for strategic court cases and catalysing collaboration between those working to advance digital rights.

Strategic litigation – litigation with broad impact and which can bring about legislative or policy change – has proven to be a crucial lever to protect human rights in the digital realm. The case studies provided here illustrate some of the important digital rights work of our grantees, which DFF is proud to support.

EU Passenger Name Record Directive

photo from above the inside of an airport terminal, passengers walking with suitcases
The EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive obliges airlines to collect personal, and sometimes potentially sensitive, data of travellers and share it with government authorities. The data is mined and…

Facebook’s private censorship

Facebook icon with 3 notifications on a smartphone or tablet. Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Facebook and other online platforms have been criticised for their role in arbitrarily censoring legal content that is shared through their services. Without explanation Facebook removed pages belonging to Spoleczna…

UK’s Snoopers’ Charter

Two hands using a smartphone. Image by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash
The UK Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) grants the government power to collect and store information about everything people do and say online. This includes emails, texts, calls, location data and…

UK’s national pupil database

Children sitting in a classroom
The UK Department of Education collects highly sensitive personal data about students for the National Pupil Database, which is routinely shared with other departments and third parties for academic and…
Airport sign reading Passport Control. Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Foxglove and JCWI successfully challenged the UK Home Office, stopping use of a discriminatory algorithm used to stream visa applications.

Organisation: Foxglove, in collaboration with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)

Grant type: Emergency Litigation and Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection; Human rights standards in the use and design of technology

Security camera with (C) Copyright logo beneath it, covered in a multicoloured splash. Photo by Andres Umana on Unsplash

HCLU are taking legal action to pressure Hungary’s government to put in place adequate measures for individuals to find out about or challenge unwarranted surveillance against them/to which they have been subjected.

Organisation: Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Litigation to challenge use of copyright law by the German government to restrict the sharing of official information online.

Organisation: Open Knowledge Foundation Germany

Grant type: Emergency Litigation

Thematic area: Free Flow of Information Online

Image by Privacy International

Complaints to data protection authorities pushing for the investigation of data brokers, adtech companies and credit rating agencies in the advertising technology industry.

Organisation: Privacy International

Grant type: Emergency Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Children sitting in a classroom

defenddigitalme is taking legal action against the UK Department of Education to ensure that the data of students is collected and processed lawfully, fairly, and transparently.

Organisation: defenddigitalme

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Photo by Women's Link

Litigation challenging website censorship and demanding that access to sexual and reproductive health services be recognised as a key part of the right to information in Spain.

Organisation: Women’s Link Worldwide, with Women on Web

Grant type: COVID-19 Litigation Fund

Thematic area: Free flow of information online

Image by GFF

Litigation challenging the collection of personal data of airline passengers and the sharing of this data with government authorities.

Organisation: epicenter.works and Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic areas: Privacy and data protection

Somebody using a laptop with data and graphs on the screen. Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash
Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

Litigation against universities in Germany to stop the processing of personal data through automated online proctoring software.

Organisation: Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Grant type: COVID-19 Litigation Fund

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Somebody examining something underneath a microscope. Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels

Litigation to improve security standards and shorten retention periods for sharing of health data by insurance providers with research institutions.

Organisation: Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Grant type: COVID-19 Litigation Fund

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Research to prepare for litigation challenging examples where data protection law is misused by the Spanish government to limit freedom of information and expression

Organisation: Xnet

Grant type: Pre-litigation Research

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Zoomed in cursor hovering over the word "Security". Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Research preparing for litigation challenging an inadequate data protection regime for people residing in Germany without German citizenship.

Organisation: Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Grant type: Pre-litigation Research

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Representation of a giant eye against golden patterns. Photo by Gert Altmann on Pixabay

Litigation to restrict access to photographs and personal information from biometric ID cards.

Organisation: Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Grant type: Emergency Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Smartphone with screen displaying white lock against purple background. Photo by Franck on Unsplash

Legal action demanding access to information about algorithm-driven technology used by state bodies in Germany

Organisation: Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Grant type: Emergency Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Image by the Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Research to prepare for litigation to challenge the practice in Germany of accessing sensitive personal data on the mobile devices of migrants and asylum seekers upon arrival in the country.

Organisation: Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Grant type: Pre-litigation Research

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Gavel lying on sound block. Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Appeal to gain access to the content of an algorithm used to allocate judges to cases.

Organisation: ePaństwo Foundation

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Human rights standards in the use and design of technology

Pole with sticker reading "Big Data is Watching You". Photo by ev on Unsplash

Coordinated complaints to data protection authorities across the EU pushing for changes to the online advertising industry so that users have control over how their data is used.

Organisation: Open Rights Group, Civil Liberties Union for Europe and Panoptykon

Grant type: Pre-litigation Research and Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Facebook censorship and changing corporate policies on content moderation towards a fair, transparent, and regulated system.

Organisation: Panoptykon Foundation

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Free Flow of Information Online

Black and white photo of several police standing around wearing helmets. Photo by ev on Unsplash

Litigation preventing the expansion of a criminal record database to include COVID-19 lockdown infringements.

Organisation: La Quadrature du Net

Grant type: COVID-19 Litigation Fund

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Image by Civil Liberties Union for Europe

Cross-jurisdictional litigation action to stop the use of COVID-19 apps that do not respect people’s rights to privacy and data protection.

Organisation: Civil Liberties Union for Europe, with Access Now and member organisations across 12 EU countries

Grant type: COVID-19 Litigation Fund

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection; Human rights standards in the use and design of technology

Textured paper with a (cc) symbol in ink. Photo by Umberto on Unsplash

Research to prepare a strategic case challenging restrictions to copyright exceptions that limit freedom of expression and access to information.

Organisation: Digital Republic Bulgaria, with Defesa dos Direitos Digitais, Homo Digitalis, Centrum Cyfrowe, and Association for Technology and Internation (ApTI)

Grant type: Pre-litigation Research

Thematic area: Free flow of information online

Somebody writing code on a laptop while looking at code on a phone. Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

After a legal challenge brought by two victims of rape, the UK police agreed to revoke a “digital strip search” policy.

Organisation: Big Brother Watch

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Several security cameras pointing in different directions against a purple-blue background. Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Litigation ensuring the increased roll out of thermal scanning technology does not violate privacy and data protection rights.

Organisation: Big Brother Watch

Grant type: COVID-19 Litigation Fund

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection; Human rights standards in the use and design of technology

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

Litigation to prevent the use of remote proctoring software until data rights and equality issues are resolved.

Organisation: Open Knowledge Foundation

Grant type: COVID-19 Litigation Fund

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection; Human rights standards in the use and design of technology

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

Research to prepare a strategic case challenging digital practices that interfere with the rights to freedom of thought and opinion.

Organisation: Susie Alegre and Centre d’étude sur les conflits

Grant type: Pre-litigation Research

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Two hands using a smartphone. Image by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash

Litigation against the UK government challenging the UK Investigatory Powers Act, which grants the government mass surveillance powers.

Organisation: Liberty

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

A close-up of a surveillance camera lens. Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Litigation in the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal challenging data breaches by the UK Security Service.

Organisation: Liberty

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Privacy and data protection

Posters on a street, including a large poster saying "Big Brother is watching you". Photo by Shepard Fairey in London: Big Brother Is Watching YOU CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A coalition in the Netherlands successfully challenged the use of the “SyRI” risk-scoring algorithm by the Dutch government.

Organisation: A coalition of NGOs, the Dutch trade union federation and two citizens, led by the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP-NJCM) and Platform Bescherming Burgerrechten

Grant type: Single Instance Litigation

Thematic area: Human rights standards in the use and design of technology