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10 Jan, 2017 11:44

UK govt’s sweeping spying powers face court challenge

UK govt’s sweeping spying powers face court challenge

Core parts of the UK’s new spying powers bill may soon be reviewed in court since civil rights NGO Liberty launched a crowd-funded legal challenge.

Liberty aims to have the most concerning parts of what it terms “sweeping state spying powers” examined in depth with a view to limiting what some see as the most draconian set of surveillance powers in the Western world. 

The group has decided to press on with the challenge since more than 200,000 people signed a petition to have the ‘snoopers’ charter’ – officially known as the Investigatory Powers Act – repealed.

The IP Act replaced the earlier Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) 2014.

According to Liberty, the new iteration vastly expands on the powers afforded under the earlier act, which was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Justice. 

The core powers in the IP Act allow the government to collect data in bulk by hacking computers, phones, and tablets on what Liberty calls “an industrial scale.” 

Provisions for ‘bulk interception’ permit the state to access communications – texts, emails, and phone calls – even if they are not suspected of being connected with crime. 

Bulk acquisition’ means that authorities can order private firms to hand over 12 months’ worth of internet search history for spy agencies to store and examine. 

The state can also legally get its hand on ‘bulk data sets’ from private and public organizations. 

These contain key information on the health, political leanings, and even sexuality of virtually the entire population.

Liberty’s director, Martha Spurrier, said in a statement: “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.” 

Spurrier said Liberty hopes “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 in the UK will support this crowdfunded challenge, and make 2017 the year we reclaim our rights.