U.K. court finds mass digital surveillance powers unlawful

A UK court found the government’s mass surveillance powers unlawful, which could force changes to the country’s spy laws. The media reports that the judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that the data retention law, which allowed authorities to access an individual’s phone and email records, was not subject to adequate safeguards. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act forces telecommunications companies to store records about customers’ emails and phone calls for a period of 12 months. The Investigatory Powers Act broadened the data retention system by allowing the government to compel phone and Internet companies to also store logs showing the websites customers visited and the apps used. This meant that law enforcement agencies were able to access this information without a warrant for a broad range of reasons, and not necessarily related to a criminal activity. This ruling partly reaffirms a December 2016 judgment in the European Union’s top court, which found that the UK government’s data retention powers were ‘highly invasive and exceeded the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified, within a democratic society’. Martha Spurrier, human rights ‘Liberty’ group director, said: ‘Yet again U.K. 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. … When will the government stop bartering with judges and start drawing up a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms?’.