HOME SECRETARY AMBER RUDD is planning to exploit "loopholes" in a recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgement declaring the surveillance powers of the Investigatory Powers Act illegal in a bid to find a way round the judgement.
Rudd will use a Justice and Home Affairs meeting of European Union interior ministers this week to press them to help find the loopholes, which she says will hinder the fight against terrorism and cross-border crime across Europe.
The surveillance powers enshrined in the Investigatory Powers Act is similar to the Data Retention Directive 2006, which has also been declared illegal by the ECJ.
The judgement was made in December just as the Act was passing into law. The case was originally brought to the ECJ by MPs David Davis and Tom Watson in June 2015, originally to challenge the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. However, Davis withdrew from the case after joining the government as minister for Brexit.
While the judgement relates primarily to that 2014 law, the judgement is broadly applicable and will therefore render illegal large parts of the Investigatory Powers Act, which contains even broader and more far-reaching surveillance powers.
These include provisions compelling internet service providers and telecoms companies to record all phone calls and every website visited by users for at least 12 months. A wide variety of public-sector organisations will be able to peruse the information without a warrant. These organisations include HMRC, the NHS, local authorities and the Food Standards Agency.
The ECJ court judgement declared much of the surveillance powers within the Investigatory Powers Act illegal, decreeing that any data retention should be targeted: by time, geographic area or named individuals. It also decreed that such powers should only be used for fighting "serious crime" and not accessible to a wide range of public agencies.
Under the Investigatory Powers Act, more than 40 public bodies will have various rights to access people's web browsing, communications and other online activities.
Extending online surveillance was a particular hobby of Prime Minister Theresa May when she was home secretary, despite warnings that the zealous extension of such powers would be bad for business. µ
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