Judges reject claim that mass surveillance powers breach human rights

The civil rights group Liberty has lost its latest high court challenge against surveillance laws, saying the ruling allowed the government “to spy on every one of us”.

In its challenge to parts of the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016 – which critics have described as the “snooper’s charter” – the organisation argued that government surveillance practices were incompatible with human rights law.

The charity told the court that, of the multiple powers authorised by the legislation, the ability to interfere with computers, mobiles and other equipment amounted to the greatest invasion of individuals’ privacy.

In a judgment on Monday, Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Holgate dismissed Liberty’s claim, rejecting the argument that IPA “does not contain sufficient safeguards against the risk of abuse of power”. The judges concluded that the IPA included several “safeguards against the possible abuse of power”.

Megan Goulding, a lawyer for Liberty, said the “disappointing judgement” allowed the government to continue “to spy on every one of us, violating our rights to privacy and free expression”.

“We will challenge this judgment in the courts, and keep fighting for a targeted surveillance regime that respects our rights,” she said. “These bulk surveillance powers allow the state to hoover up the messages, calls and web history of hordes of ordinary people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.”

In June it emerged that MI5 had lost control of its data storage operations. MI5 admitted there were “ungoverned spaces” on its computers where it did not know what it held.

The judges said on Monday: “[We] are very conscious that the recent disclosures made by the defendants about MI5’s handling procedures have caused the investigatory powers commissioner obvious concern and will cause others in society concern too.”

Related: UK has six months to rewrite snooper's charter, high court rules

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