By Muhammad Mussa
LONDON (AA) - Judges from an appeals court in the U.K. Tuesday have ruled the government’s mass digital surveillance regime to be unlawful in a legal challenge that was launched by the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson.
The ruling from the court of appeal said that the powers granted in the Data Retention Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA), which opened the gate what is known as the snooper’s charter legislation, did not restrict authorities from accessing personal and confidential phone and web records as well as from authorizing access without adequate oversight.
Three judges from the appeal court said that DRIPA was “inconsistent with EU law” because of its disregard and lack of safeguards, including the absence of a prior review from a different court and independent administrative authority.
The human rights campaign organization, Liberty, which represented Watson in the legal challenge, said the ruling meant that significant parts of the snooper’s charter were indeed unlawful.
“Yet again a UK court has ruled the government’s extreme mass surveillance regime unlawful. This judgment tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public’s human rights. The latest incarnation of the snoopers’ charter, the Investigatory Powers Act, must be changed," Liberty director Martha Spurrier told local media.
“No politician is above the law. When will the government stop bartering with judges and start drawing up a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms?” she added.
In November 2017, the Home Office presented a series of safeguards in preparation of the ruling, including the removal of the power of self-authorization for senior officers. But these were deemed unsatisfactory by human rights organizations such as Liberty.
“This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny, ” Watson said in regards to the ruling.
“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,” he added.
Watson launched the legal challenge in 2014 alongside David Davis who withdrew from the challenge when he entered the government as Brexit secretary in 2016.
In December 2016, the European Court of Justice ruled that the “general and indiscriminate retention” of confidential personal data was unlawful without safeguards including independent judicial authorisation.
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UK's mass digital surveillance regime ruled unlawful
By Muhammad Mussa