The Government’s appeal against a High Court judgment that ruled its surveillance legislation unlawful will be heard today and tomorrow (22 and 23 October).
The Government is challenging the July 2015 ruling, which upheld a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) brought by MPs David Davis and Tom Watson, represented by Liberty.
This week’s Court of Appeal hearing comes as the Government prepares to put similar legislation before Parliament. The forthcoming Draft Investigatory Powers Bill is expected to seek to expand the mass data-gathering powers challenged in this case, without regard for the lack of safeguards highlighted by the High Court.
It is also anticipated that the draft Bill will attempt to enable the tracking of every person’s web and social media use, and strengthen security services’ powers for bulk interception of our emails, phone calls and other communications.
DRIPA was rushed through Parliament in a matter of days in July 2014 by the Coalition Government, with no time for scrutiny and little debate. It allows the Home Secretary to order communications companies to retain communications data for 12 months, and catches the communications records of everyone in the UK – including emails, calls, texts and web activity. This applies to MPs, journalists, lawyers, doctors and others whose correspondence may be confidential or privileged.
Data retained under DRIPA is then subject to an extremely lax access regime, allowing it to be acquired by hundreds of public authorities who can authorise access themselves for a broad range of reasons that have nothing to do with the investigation of serious crime. Roughly half a million requests are granted each year.