The UK government’s mass surveillance program, allowing for the indiscriminate collection of people’s personal data, has been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.
Large parts of the government’s Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – dubbed the ‘snoopers charter’ – must be amended as it runs contrary to EU law, the Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday.
The judges ruled that the legislation, based on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, is unlawful as bulk data collection was being carried out for reasons other than to tackle serious crime.
They also contested the fact that it empowered police and authorities to engage in the practice of harvesting people’s personal information without obtaining prior consent from a court or and independent body.
The legal challenge was launched by Labour MP Tom Watson along with Brexit Secretary David Davis in 2014. Davis, however, withdrew when he took up his ministerial role.
Responding to the ruling, Watson said: “This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny.”
He added:“The government must now bring forward changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are innocent victims or witnesses to crime, are protected by a system of independent approval for access to communications data.”
“I’m proud to have played my part in safeguarding citizens’ fundamental rights,” Watson told the Guardian.
Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty, said of the ruling: “Yet again a UK court has ruled the government’s extreme mass surveillance regime unlawful. This judgement tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public’s human rights.”
“When will the government stop bartering with judges and start drawing up a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms?” she added.
The European court of justice ruled in December 2016 that the “general and indiscriminate retention” of people’s personal data is unlawful without safeguards, including independent judicial authorization.
Following the Court of Appeal’s ruling, security minister Ben Wallace defended the legislation. “Communications data is used in the vast majority of serious and organized crime prosecutions and has been used in every major security service counter-terrorism investigation over the last decade.”
“It is often the only way to identify paedophiles involved in online child abuse as it can be used to find where and when these horrendous crimes have taken place,” he said further.
“We had already announced that we would be amending the Investigatory Powers Act to address the two areas in which the court of appeal has found against the previous data retention regime.”
“We welcome the fact that the court of appeal ruling does not undermine the regime and we will continue to defend these vital powers, which Parliament agreed were necessary in 2016, in ongoing litigation,” he said, according to the Guardian.
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