Wednesday, January 31, 2018


In 2014 the UK parliament passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, requiring ISPs and telcos to retain customer phone and internet metadata and allowing the government to snoop through it. Now, the UK Court of Appeal has declared the law illegal:

The Government’s mass surveillance programme to collect people's internet activity and phone records has been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.

Judges said the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Dripa) 2014 breached EU law as it allowed the data to be harvested for reasons other than fighting serious crime.

It also enabled police and public bodies to authorise their own access, avoiding prior authorisation by a court or independent body.

Dripa has since been replaced by the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – dubbed the “snooper’s charter” – which campaigners said would have to be changed in the wake of today’s ruling. Many of the powers that feature in Dripa and were criticised in the case were replicated and even expanded in the new legislation.


The two central findings from the Court of Appeal – that Dripa was being used to collect data for the wrong purposes, and without proper sign-off – still exist in the current legislation. That means that the existing legal framework for the UK to spy on its citizens is "effectively unlawful", Liberty claimed.

The law basicly implemented a Stasi regime in the UK, where data was collected en masse and could be trawled through by pretty much any government agency on their own say-so. The ruling upholds basic norms around privacy and surveillance: that intrusive searches require particularised suspicion and independent authorisation (norms that were invented in the UK and go back to the Magna Carta). The fact that the UK government is now squealing about this shows us how far they have strayed from democratic values and onto the path of tyranny.

The scary thing is that Theresa May wants the UK to withdraw from the ECHR, precisely so that tyrannical laws like this cannot be overturned. Brexit and the push to "take back control" (from courts the UK helped establish and shape, applying UK democratic norms) is a real threat to human rights and privacy in the UK.