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UK emergency surveillance laws defeated in court, WhatsApp safe for now

The UK government’s emergency surveillance legislation has been ruled unlawful at the High Court earlier today. Members of Parliament David Davis and Tom Watson, from opposite parties, worked with human rights organisation Liberty to stop the surveillance laws.

Similar to the Snooper’s Charter being pushed into law by home secretary Theresa May (opens in new tab), the emergency surveillance would force UK-based telecom and Internet companies to hold onto private information on users for up to 12 months.

The law will be abolished early in 2016, which isn’t a massive win considering it was to expire later in 2016. Still, it shows the courts are not all siding with more surveillance, especially if MPs speak up against The Conservatives.

The UK has been pushing more surveillance on people since 2003, with the government offering to reimburse companies that retain information on users. Since then, the surveillance has only got worse, with the Government Communication Headquarters working on all types of modernised ways of profiling people on the Internet and retaining data for longer than the allotted time (opens in new tab).

The upcoming ‘Investigatory Powers Bill’ will replace the emergency surveillance legislation, with all of the horrors The Conservative government have cooked up under the name of terrorism or saving the children.

Sadly, unlike in the United States where there was a huge backlash to the government’s surveillance, both by companies and people, in the UK it seems almost relaxed. There hasn’t been major demonstrations about the new laws, even the Snooper’s Charter which was pushed back by the coalition of the Lib Dems for five years (opens in new tab).

The shutdown of the emergency surveillance legislation should mean WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other communications app using end-to-end encryption are fine—for now.

David has been a technology journalist for over six years, covering a wide range of sectors. He currently researches apps, app sectors and app markets for Business of Apps, and has written for ITProPortal, RTInsights, ReadWrite, and Digital Trends.