Investigatory Powers Act: UK approves the most extreme surveillance law to date

Despite Snowden’s revelations about NSA mass surveillance program, the UK just adopted the most invasive surveillance law ever seen to date. He recently tweeted: “The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies”. But what does it really mean ?


A. L. Crego


The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), replacing the outdated DRIPA 2014, will come into force in early 2017 and will give UK government agencies unprecedented power and tools to spy and invade legally the privacy of the population.

It creates a supervisory body, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, and seeks to normalize acts the police has used, in the utmost secrecy and therefore, illegally.

It includes the ability to collect and record unlimited amount of data and intercept any type of communication within the country. UK agencies like HMRC will now be allowed to hack any UK citizen PCs or mobile devices, even in cases when they are not suspected of any crime, but a warrant is then required.

Internet Service Providers also play an important role in this law, as they may be asked to record and monitor all our web activity for up to a year: URLs, searches, devices or locations. The collected data will then be available to the police and various other governmental agencies.



In the UK, but not only

These new powers extend far beyond the UK, as the government can also hack devices outside the country, no matter if suspects are public organizations or private companies. In response to fears from opponents of this law, the UK government added that, in most cases, foreign citizens or companies won’t be suspected of any crimes. We can imagine this is not exactly the argument opposition was expecting…

Moreover, it is very likely that other countries – especially those with poor human rights – use this law to justify why they need to vote for a similar bill in their own country, in order to “protect” citizens against the UK’s new spy powers.


Petition for repeal of the law

While distracted by Brexit debates, citizens and press coverage had started to shift focus on this bill when it was about to be passed into force. Critical points like access to 12 months of Internet browsing history data created public outrage. A petition has gained 150000 signatures in just a few days. With that number of signatures, the parliament must consider debating the law.


The European Court of Justice torpedoes the IPA

The European Court of Justice ruled that the UK legislation was illegal because it “prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data”. That access to retained data must only be given in cases of serious crimes. This means that significant parts of the IPA, while not directly affected by the ruling, are unlawful. The UK cannot implement the legislation as long as it remains member of the EU. The government must now make urgent changes to the IPA to comply with this.

A propos de Laura WODLING

Étudiante en Master 2 Droit de l'économique numérique

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