UK surveillance law under review by European court
Apr 13, 2016 12:32 PM EDT
The European Court of Justice will today review the legality of UK's surveillance laws under the existing Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014(DRIPA).
The ruling on the case will have a profound impact on UK's Investigatory Powers Bill also known as the Snooper's Charter. It will determine the scope and extent of data collection that the UK government can exercise, according to beta news. Aside from its legal implication, the decision is also expected to impact the June referendum when the UK votes whether to remain part of Europe or not.
The legality of DRIPA, which was rushed through parliament two years ago, will be scrutinized by 15 European judges in Luxembourg even as it has been determined by the London high court that it was inconsistent with EU law.
The Act is said to go against Article 8 of the European convention on human rights, the right to respect for private and family life, and Articles 7 and 8 of the EU charter of fundamental rights, respect for private and family life and protection of personal data.
Sputnik News reported that the court will be asked to rule whether blanket retention of personal information - emails, texts, calls and web activity - and self-authorized access to them breaches on people's fundamental right to privacy and protection of personal data. Since rulings of EU courts are applicable to UK law, the Investigatory Powers Bill would have to be rewritten to make it consistent with EU law.
DRIPA allows the Home Secretary to order communications companies to retain personal data of their subscribers for up to twelve months. These may include privileged or confidential information on everybody and not just people subject of a criminal investigation and access is on the initiative of the police and not authorized by a court.
The challenge to DRIPA was initially brought by Conservative David Davis and Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson. Around a dozen EU states including the UK intervened in the case which incidentally is being heard together with a Swedish case having similar issues, according to The Guardian.
Silkie Carlo, policy officer for Liberty, said: "The ECJ's findings could have profound ramifications for the investigatory powers bill. If judges find DRIPA's scheme of bulk retention and self-authorised access breaches human rights law, huge swaths of this fatally flawed bill will be called into question.
"The intrusive bulk powers challenged in this case pale in comparison to those now sought by the government - which include bulk hacking, the acquisition of vast databases containing sensitive information on millions of innocent people and powers to force communications companies to keep our entire web browsing histories."
Once the ECJ hands down a ruling its opinion will have to be applied to UK surveillance legislation by the London court of appeal. Davis and Watson are being represented by lawyers for the civil rights group Liberty.