The UK government is definitely going to have to make some significant changes to its digital surveillance regime after the Court of Appeal today ruled various snooping powers unlawful. Specifically, the court said that communications data -- the who, when, where and how of a conversation, but not the content -- must only be accessed for the purposes of "fighting serious crime." Furthermore, the state must not look at data before first receiving the approval of a court or independent body. Unfortunately for the government, the Investigatory Powers Act (IP Act) that became law in late 2016 doesn't comply with these rules of thumb, so it looks like there's no other option but to make some serious amendments.
The UK government's controversial Snoopers' Charter was dealt a blow today, after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that "general and indiscriminate" retention of online traffic is unlawful. The ECJ's ruling comes just one month after the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), better known as the Snoopers' Charter, which requires internet provides to record every customer's top-level web browsing history for up to one year. However, according to the ECJ, under EU law such online traffic data should only be retained when operations are carried out in a targeted manner, and in the course of fighting "serious crime". The UK government says it is assessing the potential impact of the ruling. "We are disappointed with the judgment from the European Court of Justice and will be considering its potential implications," said a UK Home Office spokesperson.
The British government must rewrite its mass data surveillance legislation because it is incompatible with European law, the high court has ruled. Judges have given ministers and officials six months to redraft the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act, labelled the snooper's charter by critics, following a crowdfunded challenge by the human rights group Liberty. Ministers had already accepted that some aspects of the act do not comply with EU law and needed to be revised. They wanted until April next year to introduce new rules. On Friday, however, Lord Justice Singh and Lord Justice Holgate said legislation must be drawn up by the start of November.