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UK gov’s plans to restrict police snooping powers slammed as ‘half-baked’

THE UK GOVERNMENT is reportedly planning to strip senior police officials of controversial surveillance powers following last year’s ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ last year dealt a blow to Theresa May’s so-called Snoopers Charter when it ruled that the mass collection of “indiscriminate” electronic communications by governments is illegal. 

The decision, which came in response to a legal challenge initially brought by Brexit secretary David Davis, noted that only targeted interception of traffic and location data in order to combat serious crime – including terrorism – is justified.

The Telegraph has this week learned that, following the ECJ’s ruling, the government is planning to launch a consultation on Thursday that will suggest independent oversight of police requests to look at surveillance data in serious and organised crime cases.

A new regulatory body, set to be funded by police forces, will work along with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, a position currently held by Lord Justice Fulford.

There will also be a new threshold that will deem whether a case is serious enough to warrant surveillance. Only cases in which suspects who face over six months in jail will qualify for retention and interception orders, according to The Telegraph‘s report. 

However, ministers also believe that there isn’t a huge demand for regulation of interception methods used by agencies such as MI5 and GCHQ, mainly because they’re in response to recent terrorism and organised crime cases.

Human rights group Liberty, which has challenged the UK gov’s “authoritarian” Investigatory Powers Act, called these concessions “half-baked” and “window dressing”.

Silkie Carlo, senior advocacy officer at Liberty, said to The Telegraph: “We warned the Government from the start that the authoritarian surveillance powers in the Investigatory Powers Act were unlawful. It should be a source of deep embarrassment that, less than a year after it passed, ministers have had to launch a public consultation asking for help to make it comply with people’s basic rights.

“Half-baked concessions dressed up as a public consultation cannot fix a law that fundamentally undermines free speech, our free press and everybody’s privacy.

“This is window dressing for indiscriminate surveillance of the public, when ministers should be getting on with changing the law.” µ

Source : Inquirer

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