The Investigatory Powers Act became law in late 2016. It was intended to introduce transparency to state surveillance following Edward Snowden’s revelations of unlawful mass monitoring of the public’s communications. Instead it simply legalised the practices he exposed – and introduced hugely intrusive new powers.
It passed in 2016 as Parliament reeled from the EU referendum – despite the Government failing to provide any evidence that the extreme indiscriminate powers it introduced were lawful or necessary to prevent or detect crime. A public petition calling for its repeal attracted more than 200,000 signatures, but was not debated by Parliament.
The Investigatory Powers Act also allows the state to hack computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, and collect the content of people’s digital communications and records about those communications created by our devices. It also allows the creation and linking of huge ‘bulk personal datasets’.
The Investigatory Powers Act is the most intrusive mass surveillance regime ever introduced in a democracy.
It gives the authorities the power to collect information about everything we do and say online – on our mobiles and computers – by tapping directly into communications channels, ordering companies to hold on to our data and hacking into people’s devices.
Agencies can store and search our web history, records showing where we go with our mobiles, and who we call, email and text. This kind of information paints an incredibly detailed picture of who we are, who we talk to, where we go and what we think.
It reveals our health problems, our political views, our religious beliefs, our sexual preferences, our daily habits and our every movement.
Spying on every single one of us doesn’t make us any safer.
By stripping away our privacy, the Government are undermining everything that keeps us free – our free expression, our right to protest and to fair trials, our legal and patient confidentiality, our free press.
They are also putting our most sensitive personal information at huge risk from criminal hackers and foreign spies.
And it’s unlawful.
In the first round of Liberty’s landmark legal case, the High Court has ruled that the Government must urgently change key parts of the Investigatory Powers Act.
Public bodies will no longer be able to access our personal data without independent authorisation or for reasons which have nothing to do with investigating serious crime.
The Government ignored over 200,000 people who signed a petition against the Snoopers’ Charter when they originally brought it in. Repeated court judgments found the previous version of this legislation unlawful – and they tried to ignore that too.
But ministers can’t ignore the fact that they now have until November to fix this rotten law.
With the support of over 1,800 people who funded the first stage of the case, we are well on our way to reclaiming our rights and dismantling the most intrusive surveillance regime of any democracy in the world.
Now we need your help to defeat it for good. Without raising this money, we can’t go to court.
The next round of our legal challenge will contest the Government’s power to hack into our computers, phones and tablets and create huge ‘personal data sets’ – vast databases containing incredibly detailed records on every one of us.
We will argue that the Government can’t simply ignore our fundamental rights when it comes to surveillance and has to fully justify the scope of the powers it claims it needs.
It needs to fully rethink its approach to surveillance and create a regime that lets our police and security agencies track and apprehend criminals without stripping privacy from everybody else and putting all our sensitive, private data at risk.
We’ve already had a huge impact – forcing the Government to fix parts of the Snoopers’ Charter.
But this law doesn’t need tweaking – it needs an overhaul.