Liberty wins right to challenge Snooper’s Charter

Statue of a woman holding the scales of justice

The High Court has granted human rights charity Liberty the green light to challenge the Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the Snooper's Charter.

Liberty will contest the mass collection of everybody's communications data and internet history, which it believes breaches British people's rights.

The act compels telcos and ISPs to retain and hand over logs of everybody's emails, phone calls, texts and entire web browsing history to state agencies to store, data-mine and profile at will.

The European Court of Justice issued a judgement last December in a separate case brought by Tom Watson MP, represented by Liberty lawyers. It ruled that the same powers in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) the previous law governing UK state surveillance were unlawful. Liberty launched its challenge in the wake of this decision.

While the act received Parliament's approval last year, Liberty contends that the government failed to provide evidence that surveillance of everybody in the UK was lawful or necessary. It added that whistleblowers and experts warned that the powers would make it more difficult for security services to do their jobs effectively.

Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, today said the organisation was "delighted" to have been granted permission to challenge the law.

"It's become clearer than ever in recent months that this law is not fit for purpose. The government doesn't need to spy on the entire population to fight terrorism. All that does is undermine the very rights, freedoms and democracy terrorists seek to destroy," she said.

"And as increasingly frequent hacking attacks bring businesses and public bodies to their knees, our government's obsession with storing vast amounts of sensitive information about every single one of us looks dangerously irresponsible."

The human rights organisation can also apply for a cost-capping order, which, if granted, the case will be listed for a full hearing in due course. The High Court has also allowed Liberty to seek permission to challenge three other parts of the Act once the government publishes further codes of practice, or by March 2018 at the latest.

Its challenge is being crowdfunded via CrowdJustice, raising more than 50,000 from the public in less than a week in January to exceed an initial target of 10,000.

Over 200,000 people signed a petition calling for the repeal of the Investigatory Powers Act after it became law late last year.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.