July last year the Data Retention and Investigatory Act, which enables Britain’s intelligent agencies to collect people’s communications data (phone and internet), took only three days to be made official, a process that under different circumstances may take weeks or even months to achieve.
The fast-tracked legislation was accomplished within three days, as a quick fix to replace the existing questionable, deemed to be illegal by the EU, powers. The government emphasised that without the legislation in place the UK would be at a serious disadvantage to fight crime and terrorism.
Now two MPs, Mr Watson and Mr Davis will challenge, within the High Court, whether the legislation is compatible with human rights. They will ague that it is not and believe that the legislation was rushed (without any valid reason) and lacks the necessary protective measures.
Ministers have outlined the following with regards to the Act:
- Communication Companies would be required to archive data for 12 months
- A warrant would be required for police and security agencies access to data
- It is needed to keep the citizens safe form crime and terrorism
The MPs challenging the legislation make the following points:
- The legislation is not compatible with the right to a private and family life, and data protection, under both the Human Rights Act and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights.
- The rights of individuals should be strengthened if the government can utilise emergency powers to spy on its citizens
- Citizens are offered limited legal protection under the legislation
- Personal information belonging to citizens will be collected and held and will represent a depiction of their lives
- No evidence is available to show that collecting information form every citizen (those not even suspected of any wrong doing) will be beneficial to the fight
The outcome should be known in a few months to come. What government say will help protect British citizens from crime and terrorism, civil liberties campaigners assert will form the foundation for further mass surveillance of UK citizens.