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European Court Delivers Blow to Snoopers' Charter

European Court Delivers Blow to Snoopers' Charter

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) has delivered a major blow to the controversial Snoopers’ Charter.

The blow comes after ruling that parts of the law that related to the retention of communications data for 12 months were unlawful.

The IP Act passed through Parliament in November this year as a replacement for the expiring Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act back in 2014 that enabled unprecedented levels of state surveillance in the UK.

The IP Act was heavily criticised for enabling public bodies to grant themselves access to details of internet usage and telephone calls without suspicion of crime or independent sign-off.

Organisations that would be allowed access to this data under the IP Act includes police and security services as well as bodies such as the Department for Transport and the Food Standards agency.

The CJEU also found that the European Union law precluded national legislation that prescribed general and indiscriminate retention of data.

It added that blanket data retention was not allowed, that an independent body must authorise any access to data and that those who had their data accessed must be notified.

The CJEU said: “The court states that, with respect to retention, the retained data, taken as a whole, is liable to allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained.

“The interference by national legislation that provides for the retention of traffic data and location data with that right must therefore be considered to be particularly serious. The fact that the data is retained without the users of electronic communications services being informed of the fact is likely to cause the persons concerned to feel that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance. Consequently, only the objective of fighting serious crime is capable of justifying such interference.

“The court states that legislation prescribing a general and indiscriminate retention of data does not require there to be any relationship between the data which must be retained and a threat to public security and is not restricted to, inter alia, providing for retention of data pertaining to a particular time period and/or geographical area and/or a group of persons likely to be involved in a serious crime. Such national legislation therefore exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified within a democratic society, as required by the directive, read in the light of the charter.”  

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