High Court Says UK Government Can No Longer Collect Internet Data In Bulk

from the snoopers-charter:-now-with-10%-less-snooping! dept

UK civil liberties group Liberty has won a significant legal battle against the Snoopers Charter. A recent ruling [PDF] by the UK High Court says the data retention provisions, which include mandated extended storage of things like web browsing history by ISPs, are incompatible with EU privacy laws.

The court found the data retention provisions are at odds with civil liberties protections for a couple of reasons. First, the oversight is too limited to be considered protective of human rights asserted by the EU governing body. As the law stands now, demands for data don’t require independent oversight or authorization.

Second, even though the Charter claims demands for data will be limited to “serious crimes,” the actual wording shows there are no practical limitations preventing the government from accessing this data for nearly any reason at all.

The decision quotes the Charter’s stated reasons for obtaining data, which range from “public safety,” to “preventing disorder” to “assessing or collecting taxes.” Obviously, the broad surveillance powers will not be limited to “serious crimes,” contrary to the government’s assertions in court.

First, the wording of the draft declaration is so broad that it would include areas which are outside (or potentially outside) the area of serious crime: for example, the area of national security. As will become apparent later, the issue of whether the area of national security falls within the scope of EU law at all is the subject of dispute between the parties.

The second sentence refers to the government’s argument: that UK national security concerns trump European law. Unfortunately, the High Court does not provide an answer as to whether UK law can ignore CJEU decisions when it comes to securing the nation. This will have to wait until after a decision is handed down in another challenge to the surveillance law.

[I]n our view, although the terms of section 94 of the 1984 Act and the terms of Part 4 of the 2016 Act are not identical, the questions which have been referred by the IPT are not confined to the precise scope of section 94. Rather they raise broader questions about the scope of EU law, having regard to Article 4 TEU and Article 1(3) of the e-Privacy Directive; and also raise the particular question of whether any of the Watson CJEU requirements apply in the field of national security.

For those reasons we refuse the application by the Claimant to make a reference to the CJEU on this question. This part of this claim will be stayed pending the CJEU’s decision in the reference in the Privacy International case.

In the end, the court decides this part of the Snoopers Charter must be stricken and rewritten to comply with EU privacy protections. The UK government has six months to fix the law. Until that point, it appears UK agencies will still be able to demand data in bulk under the Charter draft. Once the fixes are in and enacted, bulk collections of internet browsing data and communications metadata will cease… at least until the UK exits the European Union.

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Comments on “High Court Says UK Government Can No Longer Collect Internet Data In Bulk”

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12 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

FACEBOOK and GOOGLE must be chopped into TINY pieces TOO.

Those are just fronts for the surveillance state.

Corporations have NO right to collect and keep data on “natural” persons, period. — No, they don’t! They have the ability but NO right. You cannot find even a hint of such right anywhere in Common Law. Corporations are entirely fiction, a creation of lawyers with mere statute.

Anyhoo, while this could be taken as good news, don’t bother! Nothing will change. Surveillance Capitalism will go on without limit, promoted by masnicks and romneys.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: brexit, anyone?

Confirmed correct. Even the right wing newspapers can’t agree on what Brexit means: the Express clearly wants to keep EU agencies in this country after Brexit because it whines about them being “stripped” or “snatched” by the EU.

The Daily Mail seems to want to go full kamikaze because will o’ the people, even screaming about the House of Lords giving sovereignty to Parliament to decide on accepting or rejecting the deal the May Government puts together (or not); May’s only response so far has been “Have our cake and eat it or we’ll flounce out on WTO terms.” Basically, she’s an idiot and HM Government has done NOTHING to prepare to replace the EU agencies that are leaving — or to assume their functions.

And they call me a Remoaner. Better than being a Brexidiot.

Anonymous Coward says:

*Will* cease?

Once the fixes are in and enacted, bulk collections of internet browsing data and communications metadata will cease… at least until the UK exits the European Union.

Bullshit. Legally they may have to stop, but there’s no reason to think they will. Or that they won’t immediately restart it, in secret, under some other authority.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: *Will* cease?

That “some other authority” is the NSA, Which routinely uses its british counterpart to spy on Americans in order to avoid all the red tape (FISA etc.) required to spy on its own citizens. Of course these “favors” between intelligence agencies an ocean apart go both ways, and the NSA, which legally can spy on UK residents with impunity, often acts as an (outsourced) arm of the British government.

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