The Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom has ruled the government’s mass surveillance program for spying on internet use and phone records of the British people “unlawful.”
The judges ruled on Tuesday that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) 2014 enabled police and public bodies to authorize their own access to confidential information and avoid prior authorization by a court or an independent body.
The ruling also stated that the mass surveillance program was “inconsistent with EU law” as it allowed the data to be collected for reasons other than fighting serious crime.
“This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny,” said British Labour Party’s deputy leader Tom Watson, who brought the case.
“The government must now bring forward changes to the Investigatory Powers Act 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. I’m proud to have played my part in safeguarding citizens’ fundamental rights,” he added.
DRIPA forced communications companies to store detailed information on people’s mobile phone data, as well as their emails, texts and internet communications, according to the ruling.
Martha Spurrier, director of digital rights group Liberty, which represented Watson, also said, “This judgment tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public’s human rights.”
“No politician is above the law,” she added. “When will the Government stop bartering with judges and start drawing up a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms?”
The British government opened a consultation on DRIPA in November last year, admitting that independent oversight was necessary, also proposing safeguards around data retention.
The consultation was, however, rejected by campaign groups saying that those proposed changes failed to go far enough and much deeper alterations were needed to be made to the UK’s spying regime.