UK: Human rights group Liberty loses court challenge against Snoopers' Charter

The human rights group, Liberty, has lost a High Court challenge against the UK government's Investigatory Powers Act, dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter by critics who say that it erodes privacy. The case was notable because it was revealed that MI5 had unlawfully handled data, a matter that the court “recognised the seriousness of”.

During the case, Liberty went in arguing that the Act breaches people’s right to privacy, and the right to freedom of expression, two items guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights. The organisation also went into the challenge claiming that there were not enough safeguards to protect journalists’ sources nor legally privileged material. On the latter point, Liberty was backed up by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Commenting on Liberty’s loss, Megan Goulding, a lawyer at Liberty, said:

“These bulk surveillance powers allow the state to hoover up the messages, calls and web history of hordes of ordinary people who are not suspected of any wrong-doing.

"The Court recognised the seriousness of MI5’s unlawful handling of our data, which only emerged as a result of this litigation. The security services have shown that they cannot be trusted to keep our data safe and respect our rights.”

Going forward, Liberty will challenge the decision in the courts to fight for targeted surveillance, rather than blanket surveillance, to maintain people’s rights.

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