Some portions of British government’s mass interception of text messages, emails, and other forms of communication breaches European Union law, the U.K. Court of Appeal has ruled.
The controversial Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014 allowed the UK government to improperly collect data, without a court order, for reasons not considered serious crime fighting, three judges said.
Govt. Spying Policies Challenged
The case, initiated by opposition Labour lawmaker Tom Watson, is one of the several legal challenges filed against the government’s policies, which aims to collect information on the internet activity of citizens as well as phone records, in an attempt to prevent terrorist plots.
DRIPA was however repealed at the end of 2016 by the government, replacing it with the Investigatory Powers Act which critics have labelled “the Snoopers’ Charter.”
The appeals court judgement on a section of the 2014 act comes in the wake of a recent ruling by the EU’s top judges who found the U.K. policy of requiring telecommunications companies to keep customer data for a year to be in violation of the EU bloc’s laws.
Liberty, a human rights charity that supported Watson’s challenge said that the ruling implies that “significant parts” of the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Act “must be urgently changed.”
Martha Spurrier, Liberty’s director, has said that the judgement makes it clear to the ministers that the policies are “breaching the public’s human rights”, and called for the Investigatory Powers Act to be changed.
Will Not Affect Crime Detection Efforts
The ruling will however not affect how law enforcement agencies detect crimes as it concerns a policy no longer in force, Security Minister Ben Wallace clarified in a statement.
He noted that it had already been announced that the Investigatory Powers Act would be amended “to address the two areas” found to be against the previous data retention regime by the Court of Appeal.
Wallace added that the government welcomed the fact that the ruling did not “undermine the regime”, and that it will continue to “defend these vital powers.”
Opposition Liberal Democrat party has said the government was “tinkering around the edges” of its surveillance laws. Ed Davey, home affairs spokesman for the party said that “a full overhaul over the system” was needed such that it puts “our freedoms and civil liberties at its very core”.