News 21 December 2016

The Government might not be able to spy on us after all…

21 December 2016

Back in November we heard the news that our ever-honest government had quietly decided to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill, which could give them unlimited access to spy on us through our communicative data.

Fortunately, today the European Court of Justice ruled that EU laws won’t allow the “general and indiscriminate” use and keeping of our internet data, setting back the implementing of Theresa May’s “Snooper’s Charter”.

The case was not against May’s Investigatory Powers Act itself but was against its previous, similar law – the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 – which expires at the end of this year. May’s new legislation holds similar powers, meaning that the battle over 2014’s act opens the Snooper’s Charter up to similar legal issues.

The courts stated: 
“EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data. The fact that the data is retained without the users of electronic communications services being informed of the fact is likely to cause the persons concerned to feel that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance.

“Such national legislation therefore exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified within a democratic society, as required by the directive, read in the light of the [EU Charter of Fundamental Rights].”

Legal experts have suggested that the Government might now have to reduce the powers that the legislation has, encouraging it to be justified under national security laws rather than for fighting crime. If all goes to plan, this could reduce the number of people that can access our dodgy browsing history, which internet providers have to keep for 12 months.

Of course, the Tories aren’t giving up without a fight for our rights, and are going to appeal the decision. A Home Office spokesman said: “We are disappointed with the judgment from the European Court of Justice and will be considering its potential implications.

“It will now be for the court of appeal to determine the case. The government will be putting forward robust arguments to the court of appeal about the strength of our existing regime for communications data retention and access.”