The Court of Appeal has decided that the controversial Snooper’s Charter is indeed illegal in its current form and violates the human rights of all UK citizens.
The Snooper’s Charter, officially known as the Investigatory Powers Act, is an Act of Parliament that expands the electronic surveillance powers of British law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Some of the most impactful aspects of the Act include the provisions for the bulk collection and interception of communications data, and demands for internet and mobile providers to record and store an entire year’s worth of connection history for all customers – records which can be accessed by law enforcement without the need for a warrant from the courts.
Due to the Act’s indiscriminate nature, numerous concerns have been raised regarding the privacy and freedoms of citizens, as the legislation effectively treatis everyone in the UK as a potential terrorist or pedophile.
The Snooper’s Charter, which was first introduced as the Draft Communications Data Bill in 2012, has been a pet project for Theresa May since commencing her role as Home Secretary. The finalised Charter was given royal assent in early December 2016, the final step in becoming UK law.
It was Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, who brought the Snooper’s Charter to court, with backing from human rights advocacy group, Liberty.
In defense of the bill the government argued that mass communications data surveillance was necessary to fight serious and organised crime.
Security minister, Ben Wallace, said that communication data has been “used in every major security service counter-terrorism investigation over the last decade. It is often the only way to identify paedophiles involved in online child abuse.”
The ruling declares that access to the mass collection of data is not sufficiently restricted to fighting serious crime and that police and other agencies could authorize their own access without adequate oversight.
On these grounds it was decided that the Snooper’s Charter was “inconsistent with EU law” – mirroring the sentiments given by the European Court of Justice in 2016.
The Internet Services Providers’ Association expressed frustration over the Snooper’s Charter’s many revisions and amendments over the years, commenting that “it is imperative that the Government fully and unambiguously meet the requirements of the court’s judgment… failure to do so could lead to a situation in the near future where the UK’s regime is again open to further challenge and has to be revisited once more.”