On December 21, 2016, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that general and indiscriminate retention of traffic and data by UK authorities under the IPA was illegal. The ruling was made against a backdrop of concerns, voiced by human rights groups and activists, that the IPA would allow law enforcement to abuse their power and violate human rights.
In a case brought by deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson, the three judges of the UK Court of Appeal said that the IPA was "inconsistent with EU law" because of the absence of "prior review by a court or independent administrative authority," among other safeguards that would limit the abuse of power by authorities, The Guardian newspaper reported.
"This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny … The government must now bring forward changes to IPA to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are innocent victims or witnesses to crime, are protected by a system of independent approval for access to communications data," Watson said, responding to the ruling, as quoted by the newspaper.
"We had already announced that we would be amending the Investigatory Powers Act to address the two areas in which the court of appeal has found against the previous data retention regime. We welcome the fact that the court of appeal ruling does not undermine the regime and we will continue to defend these vital powers, which Parliament agreed were necessary in 2016, in ongoing litigation," Wallace said, as quoted by the newspaper.
The IPA, also known as the the Snoopers' Charter, forces Internet companies to retain user information for 12 months and raised serious concerns about privacy among civil liberty groups. Apart from data retention, the surveillance law enables UK security services and police to hack into phones and computers, as well as view journalists' call and web records.