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.
The System Risk Indication (SyRI) is a risk-scoring algorithm used by the Dutch authorities to identify those likely to commit welfare fraud. The system relies on personal and sensitive data that is pooled from the databases of various public bodies and has been criticised for being biased, discriminatory, intrusive and inaccurate. A coalition of NGOs, led by the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP-NJCM) and the Platform Bescherming Burgerrechten, joined forces with a Dutch trade union federation and two authors to bring litigation challenging SyRI on human rights grounds.
This is one of the first cases in Europe to challenge state use of “predictive policing” type tools to surveil and profile welfare recipients. In 2019, hearings were held before the First Instance Court of the Hague and, on 5 February 2020, the court ruled that the law underpinning SyRI was in violation of the right to private life under the European Convention of Human Rights. Read the full case study here or download in PDF.
The EU Passenger Names Record (PNR) Directive requires EU states to collect the personal data of airline passengers flying in and out of the EU, including email addresses, credit card details, IP addresses and even on-board meal choices. The Gesellschaft fuer Freiheitsrechte (GFF) and epicenter.works argue that the collection and analysis of this data amounts to illegal mass surveillance, and leaves certain individuals vulnerable to discrimination by the authorities.
The two organisations are taking a number of strategic cases before civil and administrative courts in Germany, as well as the Data Protection Authority in Austria, arguing that the data retention under the Directive is illegal and violates human rights. The ultimate goal of the litigation is to obtain a judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union invalidating the Directive. Read the full case study here or download in PDF.
Polish civil society organisation SIN provides drug education and supports drug users by cautioning against the harmful effects of psychoactive substances. Through their Facebook page and group they promoted activities, organised events, managed volunteers and responded to requests for support. In March 2018, Facebook suddenly removed SIN’s Facebook pages and groups.
With the help of Panoptykon, SIN has filed a lawsuit against Facebook. The case is an example of using strategic litigation to ensure private companies respect social media users’ rights to free speech and fair process, and has the potential to empower them to bring claims against private censorship online. Read the full case study here or download in PDF.