UK Court Of Appeal Rules DRIPA Surveillance Unlawful

Headquarters of GCHQ, UK's signal intelligence agencyHeadquarters of GCHQ, UK's signal intelligence agency

The UK Court of Appeal ruled what many thought since the beginning: The UK government is breaking the law when it grants public authorities, such as the police or tax collection agencies, the power to access mass surveillance data collected by intelligence agencies.

The ruling also confirmed that the supposed oversight the UK government set-up for the Snoopers' Charter (officially called the Investigatory Powers Act, or IPA) is not sufficient because there is no independent sign-off on giving public authorities access to the data.

DRIPA Ruled Unlawful

IPA, the controversial law that significantly ended-up expanding not just UK’s intelligence agencies’ surveillance powers, but also the surveillance and remote hacking powers of many other UK public authorities, including the police.

These powers would also be used without strong oversight and not just for “serious crimes,” as the Court of Appeal found out. Additionally, the UK government has started including in the “serious crimes” category even crimes that would normally be punished with only a few months in prison, presumably so it can use its mass surveillance capabilities against almost anyone the government suspects of any crime.

However, before IPA passed, the UK Parliament passed a temporary intelligence law called the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), with many of the same issues. The UK courts were unsure whether or not previous rulings on surveillance and data retention issues applied to it, so they sent the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for review.

Consequences For Snoopers' Charter (IPA)

The CJEU ruled that DRIPA was invalid soon after the UK Parliament had already passed the significantly worse IPA a a month earlier. IPA also passed despite all the issues raised by two different Parliamentary committees before that.

Once the CJEU ruled against DRIPA, it was clear that some of the main data retention and surveillance powers clauses in IPA would also be invalid, as the UK Court of Appeal has just ruled (albeit with a one year delay).

The UK government acknowledged this and started proposing its own “fixes,” which Liberty, the nonprofit backing the lawsuit against DRIPA, considered inadequate at the time:

It’s encouraging to see the Government acknowledge the need to fix a law that breaches people’s rights – but these plans are a cop-out.

The Government has defined the ‘serious crime’ exception absurdly broadly – to include crimes punishable by only a few months in prison. It fails to propose the robust system of independent oversight that is so vital to protect our rights and ignores other critical changes demanded by the court.

People in the UK deserve a surveillance law that keeps our country free and democratic – that protects our privacy, our freedom of speech, our right to protest and our free press. This is window dressing for indiscriminate surveillance of the public, when ministers should be getting on with making the law fit for purpose.

Liberty To Fight Snoopers’ Charter In Another Case

Now that the UK Court of Appeal ruled that DRIPA, IPA’s precursor, was unlawful, this drastically increases Liberty’s chances to fight it in court and get the new surveillance law back line with EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, too.

Liberty is challenging IPA in a different case, and the nonprofit has recently crowdfunded over £50,000 in just a few days to support this challenge.

Tom Watson, the Member of Parliament (MP) who filed the DRIPA lawsuit against the UK Government, said the following about DRIPA and IPA:

This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through Parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

The Government must now bring forward changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are innocent victims or witnesses to crime, are protected by a system of independent approval for access to communications data. I’m proud to have played my part in safeguarding citizen’s fundamental rights.
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  • das_stig
    Another spying operation deemed unlawful, yet nothing will get done, UKGov and spooks will be business as usual, look at how nothing has happened with ruling that Police retention of DNA/Facial recognition data of innocent people has not been deleted. UK is becoming more like Nazis Germany, where the state needs to know everything about everyone and laws only refer to the common person and not the security forces, the elite, rich and those with the right connections!
  • Saga Lout
    Why worry? Take my word for it, the genie jumped out of that bottle decades ago, way before the Internet came along.

    The only difference nowadays is we've given away far more personal details to all and sundry including private and public bodies, and they sold them on to the highest bidders.

    Proof of that is in another news item today about the personal details DVLA have sold to car-sharkspark owners so they can attack us for overstaying a few minutes on what they're allowed to declare is Private Land.

    Our country is heading for Hell in a hand-basket and although I voted to leave the EU, I don't believe doing so will help us in that regard. We've given up our rights to privacy and it's too late to get it back.
  • mikestefoy
    the UK is a police state, where the rights of the individual dont exist.
    who will get fired or sent to goal for this....

    answer no bugger !!!

    God damn the UK