Europe's top court says UK surveillance rules are unconstitutional

Last July, the European Court of Jutice's Advocate General ruled that the UK's mass surveillance regime was unconstitutional, triggering an appeal to the ECJ itself, which has affirmed that under European law, governments cannot order retention of all communications data; they must inform subjects after surveillance has concluded; must only engage in mass surveillance in the pursuit of serious crime; and must get independent, judicial authorization.

The case was brought by MPs Tom Watson and David Davis, with support from the UK Open Rights Group, Privacy International, Liberty and the Law Society.

The ruling directly affects the cornerstone of the Snoopers Charter, the most extreme surveillance law ever passed by a "democratic" nation. It's unclear what effect the ruling will have, as a speedy Brexit will make ECJ rulings irrelevant in the UK.

1. Article 15(1) of Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications), as amended by Directive 2009/136/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009, read in the light of Articles 7, 8 and 11 and Article 52(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which, for the purpose of fighting crime, provides for general and indiscriminate retention of all traffic and location data of all subscribers and registered users relating to all means of electronic communication.

This will come as a shocker to the UK government, which could be forgiven for safely assuming that at least the basic principles of retention would be accepted by the CJEU, given the opinion of the Advocate General and the views of UK courts.

The UK has pioneered population level data retention and driven the adoption of the original EU Data Retention Directive after the London bombings in 2005, and will now be forced to rethink its approach.

EU Court slams UK data retention surveillance regime [Open Rights Group]

EU's highest court delivers blow to UK snooper's charter [Owen Bowcott/The Guardian]

(Image: European Court of Justice - Luxembourg, Cédric Puisney, CC-BY)