Liberty Human Rights Group has launched a legal challenge in a bid to derail the UK government’s recently passed Investigatory Powers (IP) Act, often referred to as the “Snooper’s Charter.”
The organisation is hoping to raise £10,000 on crowdfunding platform CrowdJustice so that it can seek a High Court judicial review of the core bulk powers in the IP Act.
The legislation allows the state to monitor everybody’s web history and email, text and phone records, and hack computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale.
The Act was passed by Parliament on November 19 “with barely a whimper,” according to The Guardian. A petition calling for its repeal has since attracted more than 200,000 signatures but it is due to come into effect in 2017.
After the legislation was approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”
“Last year, this government exploited fear and distraction to quietly create the most extreme surveillance regime of any democracy in history,” said Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, in a statement. “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.
“We hope anybody with an interest in defending our democracy, privacy, press freedom, fair trials, protest rights, free speech and the safety and cybersecurity of everyone in the UK will support this crowdfunded challenge, and make 2017 the year we reclaim our rights.”
Liberty is launching its challenge just weeks after a landmark ruling from the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) rendered core parts of the Investigatory Powers Act effectively unlawful.
A spokeswoman from Liberty told Business Insider: “We need to raise the money to help cover our costs exposure. The Act has already passed, but the claim raises the issue of its compatibility with both the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) and EU law.
“If the Court finds that the legislation is incompatible with the ECHR it can make a declaration of incompatibility — that leaves the legislation in place but puts the burden on the government to change the law. If the Court finds the legislation incompatible with EU law it should strike it down.”
When the IP Act was passed, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in a statement:
“This Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe.
“The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.
“The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection.
“I want to pay tribute to the independent reviewers, organisations, and Parliamentarians of all parties for their rigorous scrutiny of this important law which is vital for the safety and security of our families, communities and country.”
But Rafael Laguna, CEO at software firm Open-Xchange, said at the time: “The Snoopers’ Charter is an excessive measure drawn-up by a government which has not consulted the tech community. Realistically, the only major effect the IP Bill will have is invading citizens’ privacy. Criminals and terrorists will only find other ways to communicate discretely.”