Human rights group Liberty was today granted permission by the UK High Court to challenge part of the UK government’s mass surveillance Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). The IPA, nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter, became UK law in November 2016 and came into force at the end of December.
Liberty is granted permission to challenge four specific aspects of the Act. The first is the mass and indiscriminate collection of everybody’s communications data and internet history. ISPs must store this data for 12 months, but must also hand it over to state agencies who can store, data-mine and profile at will.
This is despite the European Court of Justice ruling that “EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data.”
The second challenge is against the Act’s ‘bulk and thematic hacking’ powers. It allows the police and other agencies to covertly access, control and alter (that is, legally hack) electronic devices such as phones, tablets and computers whether or not the owner is suspected of involvement in any crime.
The third allows the State to read texts, IMs, and emails, and listen to conversations — again without requiring any suspicion of criminal activity.
The fourth challenge will be against agencies’ ability to acquire and link databases held by the public or private sectors. “These contain details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population,” says Liberty; “and are ripe for abuse and discrimination.”
Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, commented, “As increasingly frequent hacking attacks bring businesses and public bodies to their knees, our Government’s obsession with storing vast amounts of sensitive information about every single one of us looks dangerously irresponsible.
“If they truly want to keep us safe and protect our cybersecurity, they urgently need to face up to reality and focus on closely monitoring those who pose a serious threat.”
Liberty’s challenge is being crowdfunded via CrowdJustice, and has received widespread public support. In January, Liberty raised more than £50,000 from the public in less than a week – smashing its initial target of just £10,000.