Liberty, a civil rights activism group from the United Kingdom, has received permission to challenge the Investigatory Powers Act in the High Court.
The Investigatory Powers Act, which became a law in November 2016 and enforced shortly after, grants UK intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials unprecedented rights to intercept and review communications and related data.
It also requires communications service providers (CSPs) to retain records and provide data to intelligence and law enforcement agencies upon request.
Liberty has been granted the right to challenge a portion of the Investigatory Powers Act relating to the mass collection and retention of communications data and internet history, which Liberty argues is a violation of civil rights.
Last December, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that collecting phone and internet data and allowing agency access without a third-party review was illegal. While that determination was made with reference to the previous legislation known as DRIPA, the Investigatory Powers Act contains the same provisions and actually expands the same provisions, allowing intelligence and law enforcement even more unfettered access than DRIPA.
Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, argued that the government never provided enough justification for the expanded surveillance provisions in the Investigatory Powers Act.
“The Government doesn’t need to spy on the entire population to fight terrorism,” she said. “All that does is undermine the very rights, freedoms and democracy terrorists seek to destroy.”
Additionally, she noted, that with public and private organizations dealing with increasingly frequent and severe cyberattacks, requirements to retain large amounst of personal data seem incredibly irresponsible.
Liberty’s challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act is being funded by CrowdJustice, and in January raised over £50,000 in support from the general public, five times the initial goal of £10,000.
Liberty has also received permission to challenge three additional aspects of the Act once the government issues codes of practice for enforcement. The first covers bulk hacking, which allows police to covertly access, control and alter computers and other devices regardless of whether or not the hacking is required for an investigation.
Liberty will also challenge bulk interception of content, which will affect people who are not a part of a specific investigation, and the requirement that CSPs retain bulk datasets of personal information. These aspects will be challenged when new codes of practice are issued, or by March 2018 at the latest.