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High Court rules part of Snoopers’ Charter illegal following Liberty’s legal challenge

THE HIGH COURT on Friday ruled part of UK gov’s Investigatory Powers Act (IP Act) illegal, following a legal challenge brought by human rights campaigning outfit Liberty.

Liberty launched its legal challenge against the Snoopers’ Charter in March last year after a successful crowdfunding campaign gave it the dollar to do so

In the first stage of its challenge, Liberty – like Privacy International – focused on government powers to order private companies to store everybody’s communications data – including internet history – so that state agencies can access it.

This followed a case brought by Labour MP Tom Watson and Conservative MP David Davis, in which the ECJ ruled that “only the targeted retention of that data solely for the purpose of fighting serious crime” was permissible.

Liberty had argued that retaining every person’s data in this way without limits and safeguards violates the UK public’s right to privacy. 

The High Court on Friday ruled that these powers, enabled by the so-called Snoopers’ Charter, are unlawful, ruling that they are “incompatible with people’s fundamental rights” because MPs can issue data retention orders without independent review and authorisation – and for reasons which have nothing to do with investigating serious crime.

The ruling means that UK gov will now have to amend this part of the IP Act, and the court has given ministers until 1 November to do so. 

Commenting on the court’s decision, Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, said: “Spying on everyone’s internet histories and email, text and phone records with no suspicion of serious criminal activity and no basic protections for our rights undermines everything that’s central to our democracy and freedom – our privacy, free press, free speech, protest rights, protections for journalists’ sources and whistleblowers, and legal and patient confidentiality.

“It also puts our most sensitive personal information at huge risk from criminal hackers and foreign spies.

“The Court has done what the Government failed to do and protected these vital values – but today’s ruling focuses on just one part of a law that is rotten to the core. It still lets the state hack our computers, tablets and phones, hoover up information about who we speak to, where we go, and what we look at online, and collect profiles of individual people even without any suspicion of criminality. Liberty’s challenge to these powers will continue.” µ

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