20:38 GMT02 July 2020
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    Civil rights group Liberty has launched a landmark legal challenge to UK Government's recently enacted Investigatory Powers Act - aka the Snoopers' Charter - over "extreme mass surveillance" which allows the state to collect users' web history, email, text and phone records.

    Liberty is seeking a High Court judicial review of the core bulk powers in the act and launching an appeal on crowdfunding platform CrowdJustice.

    "Last year, this Government exploited fear and distraction to quietly create the most extreme surveillance regime of any democracy in history. Hundreds of thousands of people have since called for this Act's repeal because they see it for what it is — an unprecedented, unjustified assault on our freedom," Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said.

    In a landmark ruling, December 2016, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that powers demanded by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to demand the bulk collection of communications data are illegal.

    Marianne Franklin, Professor of Global Media and Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London and former co-chair of the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, the home base for the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet told Sputnik the new legal challenge will bring the wider legal and moral issues at stake back into the public arena.

    "The bill was passed with a very poor level of public debate, unfortunately, which is why legal challenges like this one are important to pursue. The act may have passed thanks to the governmental majority. But this does not make it compliant with international human rights standards, nor is it fit for purpose

    "The ability to gather, store, and harvest vast amounts of digital data has exploded in the last decade or so. It's cheaper and easier and very seductive for all sorts of reasons. But just because you can do something technically does not mean you should be able to do something.

    "Our human rights are protected by law in order to make it more difficult to pursue people without just cause, in a disproportionate way. I think this appeal by Liberty will, hopefully, open up the debate again and call political representatives to account for backing such a poor piece of legislation," she said. 

    ECJ Ruling

    Theresa May was interior minister when the controversial Snoopers' Charter was introduced into parliament and faced heavy criticism over its powers of 'bulk collection' of communications data — people's email, Internet browsing, social media and telephone data — over claims it was a "catch-all" scattergun approach which wrongly targeted innocent people.

    ​The ECJ ruled that bulk collection could be used in the pursuance of serious crimes where the collection of that data was "targeted" and "strictly necessary."

    "The Court makes clear however that the directive does not preclude national legislation from imposing a targeted retention of data for the purpose of fighting serious crime, provided that such retention of data is, with respect to the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons concerned and the retention period adopted, limited to what is strictly necessary," the ruling said.


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    May's Snooper's Charter Takes a Hit as ECJ Rejects Widespread Surveillance
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    Snoopers' Charter, bulk collection, mass surveillance, surveillance, privacy, Liberty and Privacy International, European Court of Justice, Theresa May, Britain, United Kingdom
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