In April 2014, the European Parliament requested FRA to conduct research on the protection of fundamental rights in the context of large-scale surveillance. It should particularly look into the remedies available to individuals in relation to surveillance practices. The scope of large-scale surveillance in the European Parliament Resolution of 12 March 2014 on the US NSA surveillance programme, surveillance bodies in various Member States and their impact on EU citizens’ fundamental rights covers the “collect[ion], stor[age] and analys[is] of communication data, including content data, location data and metadata of all citizens around the world, on an unprecedented scale and in an indiscriminate and non-suspicion-based manner” as carried out by Member States’ intelligence services.
In June 2013, Edward Snowden revealed to the media information about surveillance programmes in the United States, the United Kingdom and other EU Member States. The EU institutions reacted promptly with a number of political declarations and resolutions. In particular, the European Parliament decided to conduct an in-depth inquiry into the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programme. The inquiry’s results fed into the European Parliament Resolution of 12 March 2014, which called on FRA to undertake in-depth research in this area. This was followed up by a resolution on 29 October 2015 which stated that too little has been done to safeguard citizens' fundamental rights following the revelations of electronic mass surveillance.
FRA is currently conducting research, with the support of its FRANET network, on the safeguards of the fundamental right in the context of large-scale surveillance (for further information on this research, please refer to the Guidelines sent to the FRANET contractors which describe the information that should be collected in each of the 28 Member States). This FRA project focuses on safeguarding the following two fundamental rights in the context of large-scale communication surveillance conducted by intelligence services: the respect for private and family life (e.g. privacy) and the protection of personal data (Article 7 and Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU). The scope of the project is limited to the role played by State actors. It analyses the way national institutions that are in charge of upholding fundamental rights ensure democratic oversight over intelligence authorities and enable effective remedies against fundamental rights violations in line with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The preliminary FRA findings were communicated to the European Parliament in spring 2015.
The mapping of the legal frameworks was published in November 2015. To complement this, FRA has started field research to assess how laws are being implemented. It is interviewing representatives of parliamentary committees, expert bodies, data protection authorities, government, NGOs, journalists and private companies in 7 Member States: Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In 2017, FRA will provide a combined analysis completing the socio-legal picture of what laws exist and how they translate into practice. It will also provide opinions on possible ways forward to better safeguard fundamental rights.