Human Rights Group Liberty Takes UK ISP Internet Snooping Law to Court - ISPreview UK
Some £53,313 worth of donations from 1,861 people have this week enabled Liberty, a prominent Human Rights group, has launched a legal challenge against the Government’s controversial mass Internet surveillance powers in the new Investigatory Powers Act.

The law contains a variety of measures, such as one that forces broadband ISPs to store (for up to 12 months) comparatively detailed Internet Connection Records (e.g. the websites / servers you’ve visited) about all of their customers, which can then be supplied to a valid authority without a warrant (here). This occurs irrespective of whether or not you’re even suspected of a crime.

However the above measures have already been cast into doubt after a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) warned that EU law does not allow “general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data,” except for “targeted” use against “serious crime” (here). Since then the Government has been forced to delay a consultation on related measures (here).

This week Liberty stepped into the battlefield by launching a crowd-funded legal challenge against the IPAct’s “unprecedented ‘bulk’ surveillance powers“, which will seek to argue that the following powers breach the rights of British people.

The Focus of Liberty’s Legal Challenge

  • Bulk and ‘thematic’ hacking – the Act lets police and agencies access, control and alter electronic devices like computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, regardless of whether their owners are suspected of involvement in crime – leaving them vulnerable to further attack by hackers.
  • Bulk interception of communications content – the Act lets the state read texts, online instant messages and emails, and listen in on calls en masse, without requiring suspicion of criminal activity.
  • Bulk acquisition of everybody’s communications data and internet history – the Act forces communications companies and service providers to retain and hand over records of everybody’s emails, phone calls and texts and entire web browsing history to state agencies to store, data-mine and profile at its will.
  • Bulk personal datasets – the Act lets agencies acquire and link vast databases held by the public or private sector. These contain details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population – and are ripe for abuse and discrimination.
The organisation has instructed Bhatt Murphy Solicitors to take on the case, which effectively sets in motion a Judicial Review of the new law.

Silkie Carlo, Policy Officer at Liberty, said:

“This is our first step towards getting rid of the most intrusive surveillance regime of any democracy in history.

The powers we’re fighting undermine everything that’s core to our freedom and democracy – our right to protest, to express ourselves freely and to a fair trial, our free press, privacy and cybersecurity. But with so much public support behind us, we’re hopeful we will be able to persuade our courts to restrain the more authoritarian tendencies of this Government.”

At this stage no date has been set for the first hearing and such challenges have a tendency to be quite slow. Similarly much may yet rest on the outcome of the Government’s other challenge against the earlier CJEU conclusion, which could force the law to be softened by making it more targeted against serious criminals (i.e. the way it should have worked in the first place).