EU’s Top Court Deals Blow To UK Spying Bill

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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The highest court in the European Union (EU) ruled the United Kingdom’s Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), also known as the “Snoopers’ Charter,” is illegal because it calls for the “general and indiscriminate” retention of online traffic.

The U.K. passed the surveillance law last month, which expanded the government’s spying powers by compelling Internet providers to preserve customers’ web history for up to a year by default, according to several reports at the time.

The legal challenge, though, was specifically aimed at IPA’s legislative predecessor, the 2014 Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). DRIPA is set to expire at the end of the year, according to The Telegraph.

The European Court of Justice argues EU law only allows the storing of online data when it is for a specific reason or when it’s strictly necessary, like targeting a particular person for a serious crime. This could diminish the chances of the latest IPA being implemented in its current form.

Labor Deputy Leader Tom Watson and U.K. Brexit secretary David Davis originally challenged the surveillance powers bill, but Davis withdrew from the legal dispute when he joined the cabinet earlier this year.

“We are disappointed with the judgment from the European Court of Justice and will be considering its potential implications,” a spokesperson for the UK Home Office, the department of government that deals with immigration, security, and law and order, said, according to ZDNet.

Privacy advocates disagree.

“Today’s judgment is a major blow against mass surveillance and an important day for privacy,” said Camilla Graham Wood, legal officer with Privacy International.

Campaigners of Brexit are likely to cite this ruling as a telling example of why the country shouldn’t be beholden to European courts.

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