EU Court Of Justice Advisor Suggests UK's Last Surveillance Bill May Be Legal, But Hints That The New One Might Not Be
from the reading-the-tea-leaves dept
Over at the EU Court of Justice, the Advocate General has weighed in on the legal challenge to DRIPA, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIPA) that was rushed through the UK Parliament almost exactly two years ago. The law was challenged by a group made up of cross-party Parliament Members, and the Advocate General has sort of punted on the issue. If you don’t recall, the Advocate General’s role in the EU Court of Justice is basically to make a recommendation for the actual rulings. The court doesn’t have to (and doesn’t always) follow the Advocate General’s suggestion, but does so often enough that the opinions certainly carry a lot of weight and suggest what’s likely to happen. In this case, the opinion stated that, even though the court had previously rejected the EU-wide Data Retention Directive as intruding on privacy — the UK’s data retention law might be okay.
The opinion basically says some data retention laws may be okay if the powers are “circumscribed by strict safeguards” set up by the national courts.
Of course, the timing on this is important, given that the UK is (1) eagerly trying to push through its new surveillance law, the Investigatory Powers Bill which was (2) championed by then Home Secretary Theresa May as a necessary surveillance tool — and May is now the Prime Minister due to a series of issues in the UK you may have heard about lately. And some folks who are trying to read the tea leaves of the Advocate General’s opinion are suggesting that it may actually hint that while the old DRIPA might possibly be okay, the new Investigatory Powers bill probably is not. Of course, a lot of this depends on how you read the opinion and how certain key phrases are interpreted.
Many of those responding to Tuesday’s opinion emphasised the main finding that “solely the fight against serious crime is an objective in the general interest that is capable of justifying a general obligation to retain data, whereas combating ordinary offences and the smooth conduct of proceedings other than criminal proceedings are not.”
Basically, it appears that while it may be possible to twist DRIPA into shape so that it’s not violating the court’s required safeguards, the same cannot be said for the new bill. Whether or not that actually stops forward progress on that bill is another story altogether. And, of course, if the UK really is going to go through with its plan to leave the EU entirely, none of this may matter at all. Well, except for the privacy of everyone in the UK.