The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled as illegal the UK government’s plan to conduct an indiscriminate mass gathering of data on British citizens.
“EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes general and indiscriminate retention of data,” the court said Wednesday, in response to London’s appeal to a similar ruling by the ECJ’s Advocate General in July last year.
Last month, the British parliament approved a controversial bill that gave far-reaching mass surveillance powers to police and intelligence services.
Dubbed the Investigatory Powers Act (IP Act), the law requires communication firms to keep record the web browsing history of their customers and keep it for a year.
The European top court did not approve of retaining data from telephone calls and email, arguing that it “is liable to allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained.”
According to the court, such snooping measures were only justifiable in “fighting serious crime.”
The ruling means London cannot implement the legislation as long as it remains a member of the European Union (EU).
The case was initially brought to the European Court by MPs David Davis and Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson, after they achieved another victory against the law in the UK High Court.
“This ruling shows it’s counter-productive to rush new laws through Parliament without a proper scrutiny,” Watson said.
“At a time when we face a real and ever-present terrorist threat, the security forces may require access to personal information none of us would normally hand over,” he added. “That’s why it’s absolutely vital that proper safeguards are put in place to ensure this power is not abused, as it has been in the recent past.
Davis withdrew from the case after Prime Minister Theresa May picked him as the Brexit Secretary, tasking him with taking the UK out of the EU following a June referendum.
Ironically, the ECJ’s ruling could prove inconsequential once Davis completes the process, which according to May, may take two years.