Liberty’s “landmark” case against mass surveillance takes step forward

Liberty’s application to appeal was approved on five grounds, two of which the Government conceded on. In its application to appeal, Liberty argued the safeguards in the Snoopers’ Charter (the Investigatory Powers Act 2016) breach privacy and free expression rights as they do not protect against the dangers of bulk powers. According to the civil rights group, the latter allow spies to scoop up the private communications and Internet data of swathes of the population, hack into computers, smart phones and tablets and create vast ‘personal datasets’ without suspicion.

In response to preliminary legal filings, the Government admitted that it could not contest two parts of Liberty’s application to appeal. It conceded that the safeguards around the use of surveillance powers do not protect journalistic confidentiality. The Government further admitted the safeguards fail to protect the right to privacy when masses of intercepted data are searched in a way that can identify people without proper authorisation.

As well as those issues, the High Court found that Liberty’s other arguments must be heard at appeal, including that safeguards in the Snoopers’ Charter regarding sharing intercepted material with overseas Governments and around lawyer-client communications were inadequate. Judges also found that Liberty’s arguments over the power to create “bulk personal datasets” must also be heard at appeal. A hearing is now expected later this year.

 

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