UK’s Investigatory Powers Act shut down by EU

The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), or the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ was given royal assent and passed into law – quietly – in December this year.

However, it was swiftly shut down by The European Court of Justice.

The EU body described the the bill and its ‘indiscriminate’ collection of data as against EU law. The UK government said it was “disappointed”.

EU judges made clear that communications data could only be retained if it was used to fight serious crime. Its verdict came after a legal challenge to the UK government’s surveillance legislation.

>See also: What impact will the Investigatory Powers Act have on my privacy?

The new law would have given the UK government unprecedented surveillance powers in the free world, such as bulk data collection and interception. Executive director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, described the IPA as ‘one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy’.

The Snooper’s Charter effectively removed any right to privacy. All communications providers (such as Internet service providers and phone companies) would have been forced to keep detailed metadata records on all customers for a minimum of 12 months.

It would have granted the government the legal ability to spy on phone calls, text messages, emails and websites that you visit.

The Snooper’s Charter would have also allowed the government to order tech companies to backdoor their encrypted products.

Arguably, this would have provided an open invitation to criminal hackers and would potentially lead to a distrust of UK products.

Of course Brexit remains on the horizon and once the UK has left the EU it is a question of if but when this legislation returns.

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In the meantime the government has said it will not make any changes under its case is heard at the Court of Appeal.

Indeed, The Home Office said it would be putting forward “robust arguments” to the Court of Appeal.

It added: “Given the importance of communications data to preventing and detecting crime, we will ensure plans are in place so that the police and other public authorities can continue to acquire such data in a way that is consistent with EU law and our obligation to protect the public.”

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act expires at the end of December, and this new legislation, the Investigatory Powers Act, was set to take its place. Watch this space.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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