21 December 2016 — Liberty
The Government IS breaking the law by indiscriminately collecting the nation’s internet activity and phone records – meaning significant parts of its new Snoopers’ Charter are effectively unlawful.
When Liberty, representing Tom Watson MP, launched a legal challenge two years ago, it was because we believed the Government’s surveillance practices were breaching our human rights.
Today, the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) agreed with us: the Government is breaking the law.
How is the Government breaking the law?
Under a temporary surveillance law known as the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), the Government forced communications companies to store details of every person’s internet activity, emails, texts and phone calls.
Hundreds of organisations and government agencies – from police forces to HMRC – were allowed to grant themselves access to this data without independent sign-off and without any suspicion of serious crime.
The CJEU has now ruled that this extremely lax access regime breached British people’s rights. In fact, by allowing for the general and indiscriminate retention of every person’s data in the first place, the Government was acting unlawfully.
What does this mean for the future?
DRIPA expires on 31 December, but the Government has been busy this year with a new surveillance law – the Investigatory Powers Act (also called the Snoopers’ Charter) – passing in November.
Today’s ruling means major parts of that new Act are in effect unlawful – and the Government will need to urgently and fundamentally amend it in order to protect the rights of the British population.
What’s more, the Snoopers’ Charter replicates and vastly expands the powers set out in DRIPA including ‘internet connection records’ (ICRs). The new regime, estimated to cost £170 million, gives the Government the power to force internet service providers to retain and generate records of all customers’ internet activity. It legislates for unprecedented bulk spying powers and the creation of huge databases containing sensitive information on millions of people.
Liberty is now preparing to challenge these powers in court and our small team of expert staff will have their work cut out – please donate whatever you can to help us fight for everyone’s privacy.
Thank you for your support.
Mairi Clare Rodgers
Head of Strategy and Camapigns