How freedom DRIPs away
We don’t normally move away from broadband, but this is a worthy exception because it bears on the kind of society that access to broadband opens up.
Last April the European Court of Justice struck down the Data Retention Directive . This is the basic European legislation that allows governments to implement legislation that enables them to collect, store and share communications data. The ECJ said it was too broad and there were too few safeguards to protect against abuse of the privilege.
This meant that the UK’s mass surveillance of its citizens’ communications lacked a legal basis. The Home Office told ISPs (which ones is secret) to continue to collect, store and share this data on demand with up to tens of thousands of public sector workers under the RIPA law. Privacy groups started court proceedings against the ISPs.
The government last week introduced primary legislation it said would restore its powers, nothing more. Now legal academics have challenged that view.
Paul Bernal, a professor at East Anglia, has published an open letter to MPs and lords calling for considered debate of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) and a halt to the “emergency” rush to turn the bill into law tomorrow.
“In fact, the Bill proposes to extend investigatory powers considerably, increasing the British government’s capabilities to access both communications data and content. The legislation goes far beyond simply authorising data retention in the UK. In fact, DRIP attempts to extend the territorial reach of the British interception powers, expanding the UK’s ability to mandate the interception of communications content across the globe. It introduces powers that are not only completely novel in the United Kingdom, they are some of the first of their kind globally.”
If passed the bill will give legal cover to the mass surveillance activities of GCHQ and the NSA exposed by the Snowden revelations.
Most European countries have either not implemented the Data Retention Directive (Germany decided it breached their constitution) or have struck down their enabling legislation to comply with the ECJ’s decision.