MPs and Liberty team up to launch legal challenge over controversial data retention bill

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Drip) has been described as a “serious expansion of the British surveillance state”

Two British MPs are teaming up with civil rights group Liberty to launch a legal challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Drip), which was fast-tracked through government last week.

Labour’s Tom Watson and Conservative’s David Davis will challenge the legislation, which forces communications companies to keep customers’ personal data for up to 12 months after it is collected.

Watson and Davis will be represented by Liberty, who will argue that Drip is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which covers respect for private and family life) as well as Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (respect for private and family life and the protection of personal data).

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Drip was rushed through Parliament in just three days after being announced with backing from all three major party leaders. At its most basic it extends a set of laws introduced in 2009 forcing ISPs (internet service providers) and mobile operators to store data about who customers have contacted, where, and when – to be used by law enforcement.

Watson and Davis will be objecting to this portion of the bill – which was found to be illegal by the European Union in April this year – but other critics have said saying that Drip doesn't just preserve the status quo - it all gives the government new surveillance powers.

Davis, who is MP for Haltemprice & Howden, said that the Act was pushed through Parliament "with ridiculous and unnecessary haste to meet a completely artificial emergency" while Watson added that Drip "does not answer the concerns of many that the blanket retention of personal data is a breach of fundamental rights to privacy".

Liberty’s legal director James Welch said: "It's as ridiculous as it is offensive to introduce an 'emergency' law in response to an essay crisis. The court ruling that blanket data retention breached the privacy of every man, woman and child in the UK was more than three months ago.

"The government has shown contempt for both the rule of law and Parliamentary Sovereignty, and this private cross party stitch-up, railroaded onto the statute book inside three days, is ripe for challenge in the Courts."

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