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Liberty Granted Permission to Challenge UK ISP Internet Snooping Law

Friday, June 30th, 2017 (2:17 pm) - Score 793
internet spying eye

The High Court in London has today approved a request by Liberty, a human rights group, to challenge part of the Government’s controversial Internet surveillance powers in the new Investigatory Powers Act. The effort is being supported by £53,313 raised via crowd-funding.

The IPAct contains a variety of measures, such as one that forces broadband providers (BT, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, TalkTalk etc.) to store (for up to 12 months) comparatively detailed Internet Connection Records (e.g. details of  all the websites / servers you’ve visited) about all of their customers, which can then be supplied to a valid authority without a warrant (here). This occurs irrespective of whether or not you’re even suspected of a crime.

At the end of last year the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) warned that EU law does not allow “general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data,” except for “targeted” use against “serious crime” (here). Since then the Government has delayed a consultation on related measures (here) and now Liberty intends to tackle both this issue and three others.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said:

“We’re delighted to have been granted permission to challenge this authoritarian surveillance regime.

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.

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.

If they truly want to keep us safe and protect our cybersecurity, they urgently need to face up to reality and focus on closely monitoring those who pose a serious threat.”

The £53k of funding might sound like a lot, although a major High Court challenge could easily suck all of that up in double quick time and it might also leave the group exposed to later cost claims. As such Liberty has applied for a costs capping order. 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. The group has instructed Shamik Dutta at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, Ben Jaffey QC, Martin Chamberlain QC and David Heaton to take on the case.

Liberty’s Legal Challenge of the IPAct

* Bulk and ‘thematic’ hacking – the Act lets police and agencies access, control and alter electronic devices like computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, regardless of whether their owners are suspected of involvement in crime – leaving them vulnerable to further attack by hackers.

* Bulk interception of communications content – the Act lets the state read texts, online instant messages and emails, and listen in on calls en masse, without requiring suspicion of criminal activity.

* Bulk acquisition of everybody’s communications data and internet history – the Act forces communications companies and service providers to retain and hand over records of everybody’s emails, phone calls and texts and entire web browsing history to state agencies to store, data-mine and profile at its will.

* Bulk personal datasets – the Act lets agencies acquire and link vast databases held by the public or private sector. These contain details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population – and are ripe for abuse and discrimination.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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8 Responses
  1. timeless

    finally some sense in this debate.. tho there is a failure to address the potential for terrorists the government plan to catch using harder methods to track once they know the internet isnt safe.

    • D

      The group, Liberty havn’t applied to the high court “to address the potential for terrorists”. It seems to Me in reading this article, that they have applied to the high court to try and reduce the powers of a seemingly ever more terrorist-like Government of State.
      Centralisation of power comes with its consequences, what will the High Court decide.

  2. Peter

    @D Try going and tell all of that to those families of those killed in recent terrorist attacks.

    You have totally no idea whatsoever of what it is like to live in a terrorist-like government of state as you describe it.
    I’ve seen some comment on sites where people in the UK are actually wanting everyone to be traceable at all times both electronically and physically to effectively put and end to ‘crime’.

    Considering the EU’s digital commissioner wanted us to all log in to all websites and comment columns with our government issued ID (yup that is indeed compulsory ID cards) and post in our real names, it looks like we are about to leave one such state!

    • Apolloa

      Please don’t set liberalists off about the oh so great EU… they’ll never shut up…

  3. Apolloa

    Yeap, the first comment is the usual, I don’t want the government watching tin foil hat time, post… pathetic. In a world where children are blown up, you can find easily plenty of radicalisation videos and pictures and webpages in the net, and it’s been proven terrorist cells use the internet, the people in their attics or basements are worried about being spied on first and foremost rather then preventing children being blown up, or sexually abused.. but then again aunty ran a peodophile club for several years it seems…

    They can’t access the data without a court order and MP singing it off, they no way have the resources to check every single bit of data, and yet people are concerned about being spied on…. what do you have to hide??….. it HAS TO BE SOMETHING.

    Or perhaps these people suffer from paranoid delusions? I’m surprised you was out of your front door in the UK considering all the CCTV cameras we have here…

    • They can’t access the data without a court order and MP singing it off, they no way have the resources to check every single bit of data, and yet people are concerned about being spied on…. what do you have to hide??….. it HAS TO BE SOMETHING.

      Or perhaps these people suffer from paranoid delusions? I’m surprised you was out of your front door in the UK considering all the CCTV cameras we have here…

      Firstly, Internet Connection Records do NOT require a warrant to be accessed. A warrant is only needed when the security forces want access to the content of your communications, but that’s more understandable because it’s targeted. Also CCTV’s focus on public areas, but we don’t allow them to view the inside of our homes.

      Those ignorant of the dangers often like to say, “If you have nothing to hide then you shouldn’t have anything to fear,” a perhaps popular phrase among many past and present dictatorships (Hitler used it too), communist states and those whom simply overlook the one most obvious and simple truth of all. Yes, we all have something to hide.

      From the fact that we wear clothes, shut our curtains, lock our doors and choose not to live in completely transparent houses; to the fact that we shop online, read online, explore our understanding of the world online, experiment with relationships, discuss our illnesses and research matters of a deeply personal nature. People most certainly do have things to hide.

      Put another way, arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. You assume that today’s democratic values will always be preserved, while history shows that some of the worst leaders come to power via a vote and then proceed to abuse that power. Laws that support privacy are a protection against that danger.

    • George M

      You do know that from 2003, GCHQ and MI5/6 ran an illegal whole country internet surveillance which was legalised in 2014 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28305309

      And the results of that 11 year illegality, NIL. That’s right, they didn’t stop any crimes, at all. Billions of pounds spent and not 1 crime was stopped. Nor did any new individual come to light. Theresa May said that it had stopped a single paedophile but it soon came to light that he was being followed BEFORE this scheme so there were no successes.

    • ultraspeedy

      “…In a world where children are blown up, you can find easily plenty of radicalisation videos and pictures and webpages in the net, and it’s been proven terrorist cells use the internet…”

      Yet here you are using and paying for the technology that allows all that to happen.

      Quite how you think spying will also equate to none of what you mention ever being online is also confusing. Even given all the spying power possible i think you will find a video being uploaded and viewed before it is removed is still more likely to happen, than it never appear.

      “the people in their attics or basements are worried about being spied on first and foremost rather then preventing children being blown up, or sexually abused”

      I think you have watched one too many horror movies if you think attics and basements are dark, dingy and dodgy places, home to weirdos and criminals. 20% of dwellings in the UK have basements, 80% have lofts or attics and 15% of those have had the loft or attic converted into a bedroom or other dwelling space So you basically think taking the habitable space that is neigh on a third of the country. Thankfully though people like you with their outdated, deluded and fundamentalist views on people and what they do in certain rooms will now be known about.

      As to saving the children from pedophiles and sexual abuse, Saville and friends, childrens homes especially of the past and the church, all seem to manage that quite well with NO internet.

      “and yet people are concerned about being spied on…. what do you have to hide??….. it HAS TO BE SOMETHING.”

      Im quite happy for the government to read my communications, what i would not be happy about from them is it all being stored in one place, then lost. You know like idiot members of government that have lost confidential paperwork and laptops in the past. I can say i would then be happy for my information, like my financial details, medical records and more being publicly available to people with your rather dimly thought out views.

      “Or perhaps these people suffer from paranoid delusions? I’m surprised you was out of your front door in the UK considering all the CCTV cameras we have here…”

      You are allowed to know when you have been filmed by CCTV and you can actually even request the footage…
      https://www.gov.uk/request-cctv-footage-of-yourself

      Can the same be said for internet spying which you wrongly think equates to the same thing?

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