Editorial

Snooper’s Charter facing major legal challenge

Civil liberties campaigner Liberty says bulk powers proposed in the Investigatory Powers Act need to be re-thought

Posted 3 July 2017 by

The High Court says human rights group Liberty has the basis for a legal challenge against the government against the still-controversial Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

More typically known as the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ by its critics, the legislation finally made it on to the statute book this year after being pushed back by the Lords on several occasions.

But it seems like it faces yet more challenges, as Liberty gears up to say its provision of surveillance powers in terms of what it styles the “mass collection of everybody’s communications data and Internet history”, which it believes “breaches British people’s rights”.

Liberty’s latest bid to curb the powers it says the state is arrogating to itself are all down to something called a costs capping order which, if agreed, would lead to a full hearing in due course.

Liberty is particularly exercised by what it sees as the right for the authorities to perform bulk hacking of devices, interception of data and the creation of bulk personal datasets.

The High Court has also allowed the group’s lawyers to seek permission to challenge three other parts of the Act once the government publishes further codes of practice, or by March 2018 at the latest which are expected to cover bulk and ‘thematic’ hacking, the bulk interception and acquisitions of comms content and the power of agencies to “acquire and link vast databases” by the public and private sectors.

“We’re delighted to have been granted permission to challenge this authoritarian surveillance regime,” said the organisation’s Director, Martha Spurrier.

“It’s become clearer than ever in recent months that this law is not fit for purpose [and] 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 [the government] truly wants to keep us safe and protect our cybersecurity, it urgently needs to face up to reality and focus on closely monitoring those who pose a serious threat.”

Liberty campaigns for civil liberties and human rights in the UK; go here to find out more about its issues with the Act.