EU’s Highest Court Gives a Landmark Ruling on Mass Surveillance

This is good news for privacy in an era where privacy in general is at an all-time low.

The European Union’s highest court on Wednesday issued a landmark ruling against mass surveillance in a judgment that challenges key portions of the U.K.’s so-called “Snooper’s charter,” a sweeping surveillance bill that was set to become law by the end of the year.

The decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which directly calls into question both the British law and a similar bill in Sweden, finds that indiscriminate storing of private citizens’ communications data is illegal under EU law.

The court’s ruling finds that data retention is only allowable when government agencies are investigating a “serious crime,” such as terrorism.

The “general and indiscriminate retention” of emails allowed by the the “Investigatory Powers Act,” or Snooper’s charter, is therefore illegal, the Guardian reports.

“Today’s judgment is a major blow against mass surveillance and an important day for privacy,” said Camilla Graham Wood, legal officer with the rights organization Privacy International. “It makes clear that blanket and indiscriminate retention of our digital histories — who we interact with, when and how and where — can be a very intrusive form of surveillance that needs strict safeguards against abuse and mission creep. Unfortunately, those safeguards are not present in the Investigatory Powers Act, which is why it’s a Snooper’s Charter.”