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Government explains how it will scale back 'Snooper's Charter' powers after EU judges deem it unlawful

Joseph Archer
This follows the Court of Justice of the European Union ruling in December 2016 that aspects of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 were

The Home Office has revealed how it will water down its powers on acquiring people’s data in the proposed “Snooper's Charter”, after EU judges deemed it unlawful.   

The step down in the charter’s capabilities means that British authorities can only acquire the location data and traffic data of someone if they think a person is undertaking a “serious crime”. 

This move came after the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in December 2016 that aspects of the government’s Investigatory Powers Act 2016 breached EU law and individuals' human rights. 

It was deemed that public bodies, such as the police, could not just “rubber stamp” their own warrant to “snoop” on someone and that an independent body would have to give the approval. This lead to the creation of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner in September 2017 to handle these requests.

Tom Watson originally brought the legal challenge against the Snooper's Charter to the EU courts, along with David Davis

The Home Office’s original proposal would let authorities access the data of a person who could receive six months in prison. The government has now increased this threshold to a person who could receive a 12-month prison sentence.  

The government believes this would be in line with the EU law's definition of a “serious crime”.  

FAQ | Investigatory Powers Act

The move was revealed in the Home Office's response to a consultation on changes to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. The review resulted in the proposed amendments which took into account 794 written responses made by campaigners and interested individuals.  

The CJEU ruling came as a result of a legal challenge initially brought by the ex-Brexit secretary, David Davis, when he was a backbench MP, and Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, over the legality of GCHQ’s bulk interception of call records and online messages under the act.

Mr Davis and Mr Watson were supported by Liberty, the Law Society, the Open Rights Group and Privacy International in the ruling in 2016.