Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Challenging Britain's panopticon

Last week, the British establishment rammed through new "emergency" surveillance and data retention laws, with the collusion of all three major parties. Now those laws are being challenged in the courts:

Two leading Westminster civil liberties campaigners, David Davis and Tom Watson, are to mount a high court legal challenge to the government's new "emergency" surveillance law, which was rushed through parliament last week.

The application for a judicial review of the new legislation, which was passed with support from the three main parties, is to be mounted by the human rights organisation Liberty on behalf of the two backbench MPs.


Liberty is to argue on behalf of Davis and Watson that the new legislation is incompatible with article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which includes the right to respect for private and family life, and article 7 of the European charter of fundamental rights – respect for private and family life and protection of personal data.

The Drip Act requires internet and phone companies to collect their customers' personal communication data, tracking their phone and internet use, and store it for 12 months to give access to the police, security services and up to 600 public bodies on request.

Liberty argues that such communications data can provide a very intimate picture of a person's life by detailing who they have been in contact with, by what means, for how long, and from where.

They're on solid ground here. The EU Data Retention Directive, which DRIP replaces, was declared invalid for precisely this reason. Mass-surveillance without particularised suspicion is standing breach of the ECHR. Which is one of the reasons why the Tories want to leave it: because it is doing its job in protecting the rights of the UK's citizens against its authoritarian, spying government.