CJEU ruling could force UK Government to change Investigatory Powers Act

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued a judgment that could force the Government to change the Investigatory Powers Act – just weeks after the surveillance law received royal assent.

The judgement relates to a case brought by Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP, over intrusive data retention powers.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has passed a ruling stating that:

i) Blanket data retention is not permissible
ii) Access to data must be authorised by an independent body
iii) Only data belonging to people who are suspected of serious crimes can be accessed
iv) Individuals need to be notified if their data is accessed.

At present, none of these conditions are met by UK law.

Open Rights Group intervened in the case together with Privacy International, arguing that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), rushed through parliament in 2014, was incompatible with EU law. While the Judgment will no longer affect DRIPA, which expires at the end of 2016, it has major implications for the Investigatory Powers Act.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“The CJEU has sent a clear message to the UK Government: blanket surveillance of our communications is intrusive and unacceptable in a democracy.

“The Government knew this judgment was coming but Theresa May was determined to push through her snoopers’ charter regardless. The Government must act quickly to re-write the IPA or be prepared to go to court again.”

Data retention powers in the Investigatory Powers Act will come into effect on 30 Dec 2016. These mean that ISPs and mobile phone providers can be obliged to keep data about our communications, including a record of the websites we visit and the apps we use. This data can be accessed by the police but also a wide range of organisations like the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Health.