Two MPs are planning to sue the UK government over its controversial emergency data snooping law, which was rushed through Parliament last week with what they described as “ridiculous and unnecessary haste”.
Conservative David Davis and Labour’s Tom Watson are looking for a judicial review of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIP), which was announced and rubber-stamped in a few days after the Europe’s top court ruled against long-term data retention.
The European Court of Justice said in April that ISPs were no longer required to log comms data on their subscribers for up to 12 months under the Data Retention Directive because the directive interfered with privacy rights. The judgement called into question existing UK law on data snooping, including the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that covers law enforcement and government agency surveillance of individuals.
The government quickly drew up the DRIP Act forcing telcos to hang onto customers’ information to allow spooks to continue slurping Brits’ phone and internet activity. The act became law in just three days, following discussions between the three main party leaders.
Introducing the bill on 10 July, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the ability to snoop on comms data was “essential” in fighting crime and terrorism.
“No government introduces fast track legislation lightly. But the consequences of not acting are grave,” he said.
“I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new powers or capabilities – that is not for this Parliament. This is about restoring two vital measures ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools to keep us all safe.”
But the MPs said that the new surveillance powers were driven through government too fast and with sparse oversight.
“This Act of Parliament was driven through the House of Commons with ridiculous and unnecessary haste to meet a completely artificial emergency,” Davis argued.
“As a result, Members of Parliament had no opportunity to either research it, consider it or debate it properly and the aim of this legal action is to make the Government give the House the opportunity to do what it should have been allowed in the first place - proper, considered and effective law making.”
Watson agreed, saying that party leaders had “railroaded” the bill through Parliament.
“You cannot make good laws behind closed doors,” he said. “The new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act does not answer the concerns of many that the blanket retention of personal data is a breach of fundamental rights to privacy.”
Human rights group Liberty is to argue on the MPs’ behalf that Drip is incompatible with human rights on privacy and the protection of personal data. “It’s as ridiculous as it is offensive to introduce an “emergency” law in response to an essay crisis. The court ruling that blanket data retention breached the privacy of every man, woman and child in the UK was more than three months ago,” James Welch, legal director at Liberty, pointed out.
“The Government has shown contempt for both the rule of law and Parliamentary Sovereignty, and this private cross party stitch-up, railroaded onto the statute book inside three days, is ripe for challenge in the Courts.” ®