Reject Mass Surveillance

The UK’s Investigatory Powers Act is the most intrusive surveillance law ever introduced in a democratic country. We’re challenging it in court.
Someone using their smart phone
"The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing. You get to know more intimate details about their life than any person they talk to."
Tim Berners-Lee

We're taking the Government to court to stop them from being able to intercept everyone's digital communications in bulk, hack into our computers, phones and tablets, and create vast ‘personal datasets’ without suspicion of a crime being committed.

The Investigatory Powers Act is the most intrusive mass surveillance regime ever introduced in a democracy.

It gives the authorities the power to collect information about everything we do and say online – on our mobiles and computers – by tapping directly into communications channels, ordering companies to hold on to our data and hacking into people’s devices.

Agencies can store and search our web history, records showing where we go with our mobiles, and who we call, email and text.  This kind of information paints an incredibly detailed picture of who we are, who we talk to, where we go and what we think.

It reveals our health problems, our political views, our religious beliefs, our sexual preferences, our daily habits and our every movement.

Spying on every single one of us doesn't make us any safer.

By stripping away our privacy, the Government are undermining everything that keeps us free – our free expression, our right to protest and to fair trials, our legal and patient confidentiality, our free press.

They are also putting our most sensitive personal information at huge risk from criminal hackers and foreign spies.

And it’s unlawful.

In the first round of our landmark legal case, the High Court said the Government had to change key parts of the Investigatory Powers Act.

Public bodies will no longer be able to access our personal data without independent authorisation or for reasons which have nothing to do with investigating serious crime.

The Government ignored over 200,000 people who signed a petition against the Snoopers’ Charter when they originally brought it in. Repeated court judgments found the previous version of this legislation unlawful – and they tried to ignore that too.

But ministers HAVE NOW HAD TO AMEND this rotten law.

With the support of over 1,800 people who funded the first stage of the case, we are well on our way to reclaiming our rights and dismantling the most intrusive surveillance regime of any democracy in the world. 

Now WE'RE GOING to defeat it for good.

The High Court has given us the go-ahead for the next round of our legal challenge which will contest the Government’s power to hack into our computers, phones and tablets and create huge ‘personal data sets’ – vast databases containing incredibly detailed records on every one of us.

We will argue that the Government can’t simply ignore our fundamental rights when it comes to surveillance and has to fully justify the scope of the powers it claims it needs.

It needs to fully rethink its approach to surveillance and create a regime that lets our police and security agencies track and apprehend criminals without stripping privacy from everybody else and putting all our sensitive, private data at risk.

We’ve already had a huge impact – forcing the Government to fix parts of the Snoopers’ Charter.

But this law doesn’t need tweaking – it needs an overhaul.

About the Investigatory Powers Act

The Investigatory Powers Act was intended to introduce transparency to and regulate state surveillance following Edward Snowden’s revelations of unlawful mass monitoring of the public’s communications.

Instead it legalised many of the eye-watering practices he exposed – and introduced hugely intrusive new powers.

It passed in 2016 in an atmosphere of shambolic political opposition and as Parliament reeled from the EU referendum – despite the Government failing to provide any evidence that the extreme indiscriminate powers it introduced were lawful or necessary to prevent or detect crime.

Experts including tech specialists, security chiefs and former senior spies said the new law would put our cybersecurity at risk and undermine our rights without making us safer – but the Government didn’t listen.

More than 200,000 people signed a petition calling for the Act’s repeal – but this wasn’t debated by Parliament.

Liberty's Legal Challenge to the Act

We're challenging the lawfulness of the following powers, which we believe breach the public’s rights:

•    Bulk retention of everybody’s communications data and internet history – the Act forces communications companies and service providers to keep records of everybody’s emails, phone calls and texts and web browsing history for state agencies to store, data-mine and profile.

•    Bulk hacking – the Act lets police and agencies access, control and alter electronic devices like computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, even when their owners aren’t suspected of involvement in crime – leaving them vulnerable to further attack by hackers.

•    Bulk interception – the Act lets the state read texts, online messages and emails and listen in on calls en masse, without requiring suspicion of criminal activity.

•    “Bulk personal datasets” – the Act lets agencies acquire and link vast databases held by the public or private sector. These contain details on religion, ethnic origin, sexuality, political leanings and health problems, potentially on the entire population – and are ripe for abuse and discrimination.

Read Liberty Skeleton Argument for IPA Challenge

Read government skeleton argument for IPA challenge

Read National Union of journalists skeleton argument for IPA challenge

What we need

There’s no doubt that the Government and security agencies need surveillance powers to address the changing ways we  live our lives in the 21st century.

But there’s no evidence that harvesting huge vats of sensitive personal information about every one of us helps face those challenges.

Instead of throwing away the freedom and fundamental rights our country is so proud of, the Government must build a responsible and effective targeted surveillance system that would let them monitor those they need to – without building goldmines full of population-level personal details on all of us.



Policy reports and briefings