Legality of UK’s Investigatory Powers Act questioned by the European Court of Justice ruling

European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg questioned the legality of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, the so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, related to the bulk collection of communications data, with its verdict.

The ruling set new precedent for EU member states’ data retention regimes, stating that “general and indiscriminate retention” of data is prohibited. Access to the retained data by the Government is restricted for the purpose of preventing and detecting serious crime, and must be:

  • Subject to prior review by a court or an independent authority; and 
  • notice must be given to people affected by the retention, as soon as such notice no longer jeopardises the investigation, in order for those individuals to exercise their legal rights if necessary. 

The Investigatory Powers Act passed through Parliament in November 2016, as a replacement for the expiring Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) passed in 2014, which enabled unprecedented levels of state surveillance in the UK. The history of the case is followed closely by Privacy International.