The EU just smacked down the UK's "Snooper's Charter"

A new ruling from the European Union's Court of Justice in Luxembourg is opening up the potential to challenge the UK's Investigatory Powers Act, which was passed earlier this year. Otherwise known as the Snooper's Charter, the Investigatory Powers Act has proven to be quite controversial as it requires ISPs within the UK to keep records of the websites their users visit for a full year. Today, the EU's judgement is saying that's illegal.

Essentially, this judgement says that requiring ISPs to keep "general and indiscriminate" data on web traffic is a no-go. There are exceptions, obviously, but those generally only apply when a serious crime is suspected. The opening paragraph of the Court's judgement sums up the ruling and its concessions well:

EU law precludes a general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data, but it is open to Members States to make provision, as a preventive measure, for targeted retention of that data solely for the purpose of fighting serious crime, provided that such retention is, with respect to the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons concerned and the chosen duration of retention, limited to what is strictly necessary. Access of the national authorities to the retained data must be subject to conditions, including prior review by an independent authority and the data being retained within the EU.

Critics of the UK's Snooper's Charter will probably be pleased to hear this, but one has to wonder what's going to happen once the UK exits the European Union. Privacy advocates may not think this goes far enough either, as this only calls for additional oversight in cases of data retention. In fact, the ruling doesn't really say all that much about the collection of such data, specifying that this merely concerns retention:

The Court states that, with respect to retention, the retained data, taken as a whole, is liable to allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained.

Even if it doesn't go as far as some privacy advocates may like, some oversight is better than none at all. It'll be interesting to see the UK's reaction to this ruling, because even though it will eventually leave the European Union, it's still a part of it for the time being. For as long as it remains, this is definitely a blow to the Snooper's Charter, which is good news indeed.

SOURCE: EU Court of Justice