Crime and Justice

Liberty meets crowdfunding target for legal challenge to IPBill

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Human Rights charity Liberty has raised more than £10,000 from the public to fund a challenge against new UK-wide state surveillance powers.

The majority of the money was raised through a crowdfunding site in just a few hours on January 10.

The planned legal challenge follows a ruling at the European Court of Justice that bulk data interception powers of the type recently passed into UK law through the Investigatory Powers Act could be unlawful.

More than 206,000 people have also signed a petition calling for the repeal of the IP Bill.

Specifically Liberty say these powers in the IP Bill could breach Human Rights laws:

·         Bulk hacking – the Act lets police and agencies access, control and alter electronic devices like computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, regardless of whether their owners are suspected of involvement in crime – leaving them vulnerable to further attack by hackers.

·         Bulk interception – the Act allows the state to read texts, online messages and emails and listen in on calls en masse, without requiring suspicion of criminal activity.

·         Bulk acquisition of everybody’s communications data and internet history – the Act forces communications companies and service providers to hand over records of everybody’s emails, phone calls and texts and entire web browsing history to state agencies to store, data-mine and profile at its will. This provides a goldmine of valuable personal information for criminal hackers and foreign spies.

·         “Bulk personal datasets” – the Act lets agencies acquire and link vast databases held by the public or private sector. These contain details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population – and are ripe for abuse and discrimination.

Launching the crowdfunder, Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “Last year, this Government exploited fear and distraction to quietly create the most extreme surveillance regime of any democracy in history. Hundreds of thousands of people have since called for this Act’s repeal because they see it for what it is – an unprecedented, unjustified assault on our freedom.

“We hope anybody with an interest in defending our democracy, privacy, press freedom, fair trials, protest rights, free speech and the safety and cybersecurity of everyone in the UK will support this crowdfunded challenge, and make 2017 the year we reclaim our rights.”

At the time of writing the charity had raised all of the £10,000 it says it needs.

In response to the coming legal challenge, Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “The Investigatory Powers Act protects both our privacy and our security.

“Far from being passed quietly, the Act underwent unprecedented Parliamentary scrutiny before becoming law. It was also the result of three independent reports, all of which concluded a new law was needed. The Act was passed with cross party support and is the will of Parliament.

“The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, found that the ability to collect data in bulk is a crucial tool used by the security and intelligence agencies to generate intelligence about threats that cannot be acquired by more targeted means. We will vigorously defend these vital powers that help to keep our families, communities and country safe.”

You can find more stories on privacy and surveillance written by The Ferret here.

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