The Queen's Bench Division of The High Court of Justice ruled last Friday (27 April) that a key part of the controversial 2016 Investigatory Powers Act (Snoopers' Charter), which would force broadband ISPs to log the internet activity of all their customers for up to 12 months, is unlawful and must be amended.
According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, the government has been given six months to rewrite and redraft the Act after the mass data surveillance legislation was found to be incompatible with European Law. The ruling comes after crowdfunding by rights group Liberty, which argued via its lawyers that the Act violates the public's right to privacy by allowing the storage of and access to internet data. Ministers wanted to wait until April next year to introduce new rules to the Act but in a ruling by Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Holgate it was told that the legislation must be drawn up by the beginning of November.
Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com commented: "When it was introduced back in 2016, the so-called Snooper's Charter forced British citizens to potentially give up a huge chunk of privacy in return for a totally unproven level of security, whether they liked it or not and, more importantly, whether a judge thought it necessary or not.
"Today's court case goes some way in rebalancing the needs of the police and intelligence agencies against the rights of ordinary people to have a private life, without fear of warrantless searches being conducted against their internet browsing history.
"Whether or not any new definition of “serious crime” put forward by the government will be both realistic, and in line with privacy campaigners' wishes, remains to be seen but, for now, the Investigatory Powers Act appears to be only very slightly diminished in scope and a whole lot more citizen-friendly in implementation."