As our lives have increasingly become data-driven and digital by default, finding the balance between privacy and national security/law enforcement has become one of the central legal, political, and ethical debates of the information age. On 11 May, the Director of the Information Law and Policy Centre, Dr Nora Ni Loideain joined a panel of experts at a Bingham Centre event to discuss the latest round in the legal debate – the European Court of Justice’s (CJEU) recent ruling in a case brought by Tom Watson MP against the UK government in regard to the legality of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). Although DRIPA has now expired, the CJEU Grand Chamber judgment delivered last December also calls into question the legal status of the legislation which replaced DRIPA in 2016, the Investigatory Powers Act (IP Act).
According to the panel chair, Professor Lorna Woods, the CJEU judgment formed what might be considered a “strong view” on privacy and regarded mass data retention as “disproportionate” compared to citizens’ rights to privacy. In this regard, the ruling continued in the same vein as the landmark 2014 Digital Rights Ireland judgment, which struck down the EU’s instrument for mandatory mass data retention – the Data Retention Directive – and declared it to be incompatible with the right to respect for private life and data protection protected by Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
As we wait for the UK Court of Appeal to interpret the Watson/Tele2 judgment in relation to UK law, the panel considered what the Grand Chamber’s judgment might mean for mass data retention. In particular, Professor Lorna Woods put it to the panel and audience to consider whether the scope of data retention currently provided for under the IP Act 2016 was still possible in light of the reasoning of the CJEU Grand Chamber’s judgment. Continue reading