European hearing may limit GCHQ's powers

An upcoming European hearing over UK surveillance laws may result in a severe limitation on GCHQ's powers.

The Guardian reported yesterday that a European emergency hearing over the legality of such laws would be held for the first time on April 12th.

In dispute are laws  like the incoming Investigatory Powers bills or the 2014 Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), which makes telecommunications providers retain the data of customers for potential later use by security services.

Both laws are widely condemned by privacy advocates for the violating powers that they grant the forces of national security.

Tom Watson MP and David Davis MP, leading members of the Labour and Conservative parties respectively, brought a legal challenge against the Home Office last year, over the rushing through of DRIPA. The two MPs claimed that such a law directly conflicted with law which superseded the authority inherent in DRIPA, like the European Union Charter on Human Rights.

While Davis and Watson won the challenge in the UK High Court, the Home Office appealed, shifting the fight upwards to the higher European courts.

Koen Lenaerts, president of the ECJ clarified that the emergency hearing was to deal with Home Office powers that “require public telecommunications data for a maximum period of 12 months, retention of the content of the communications concerned being excluded.“

GCHQ and the offices of Tom Watson MP and David Davis MP did not respond for comment.