Liberty launches crowdfunded legal challenge to “indiscriminate state spying powers”

Liberty is launching a landmark legal challenge to the “extreme mass surveillance powers” outlined in the Government’s new Investigatory Powers Act which allows the state to monitor everybody’s web history and e-mail, text and phone records and hack computers, phones and tablets on what Liberty refers to as an “industrial scale”.

The civil liberties and Human Rights champion is seeking a High Court Judicial Review of the core bulk powers in the so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ and calling on the public to help it take on the challenge by donating via crowdfunding platform CrowdJustice.

Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, explained: “Last year, the 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 and unjustified assault on our freedoms. We hope anybody with an interest in defending our democracy, privacy, press freedom, fair trials, protest rights, free speech and the safety and cyber security of everyone here in the UK will support this crowdfunded challenge and make 2017 the year that we reclaim our rights.”

Late last year, the Investigatory Powers Act passed into law in what Liberty refers to as “an atmosphere of shambolic political opposition” despite the Government “failing to provide any evidence” that such indiscriminate powers were either lawful or necessary to prevent or detect crime. A petition calling for the Act’s repeal has since attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

Liberty will seek to challenge the lawfulness of the following powers, which it believes breach the public’s rights:

*Bulk hacking: the Act allows police and agencies to 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, in turn leaving them vulnerable to further attack by hackers

*Bulk interception: the Act allows the state to read texts, online messages and e-mails 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 Internet Service Providers to hand over records of everybody’s e-mails, phone calls and texts and entire web browsing history to state agencies to store, data-mine and profile at its will. This provides a goldmine of valuable personal information for criminal hackers and foreign spies

*’Bulk personal datasets’: the Act lets agencies acquire and link vast databases held by the public or private sector containing details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population, and which are “ripe for abuse and discrimination”

A major victory

Martha Spurrier: director of Liberty

Martha Spurrier: director of Liberty

Liberty is launching this challenge a matter of weeks after a landmark ruling from the European Union (EU) Court of Justice (CJEU) rendered core parts of the Investigatory Powers Act effectively unlawful.

In a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) made by MP Tom Watson, represented by Liberty, the CJEU ruled that the UK Government was breaking the law by indiscriminately collecting and accessing the nation’s Internet activity and phone records.

DRIPA forced communications companies to store records of everybody’s e-mails, texts, phone calls and Internet communications and let hundreds of public bodies grant themselves access with no suspicion of serious crime or independent sign-off required in order for them to do so.

Judges ruled that the regime breaches British people’s rights because it allows indiscriminate retention of all communications data, doesn’t restrict access to the purpose of preventing and detecting precisely defined serious crime, lets police and public bodies authorise their own access instead of requiring prior authorisation by a court or an independent body, doesn’t require that people be notified after their data has been accessed and doesn’t require that the data be kept within the EU.

DRIPA expired at the end of 2016, but its powers are deemed by Liberty to be “replicated and vastly expanded” in the Investigatory Powers Act with “no effort to counter the lack of safeguards found unlawful” in the case.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

Related Posts