UK surveillance reform – third time’s a charm?

As NSA is preparing to end bulk collection of phone calls data in the US, on the other side of the Atlantic, UK is preparing to introduce new regulation regarding investigatory powers of British law enforcement. Presented yesterday, by Home Secretary Theresa May, Investigatory Powers Bill (already known as “snoopers’ charter”) will significantly overhaul currently existing provisions regulating targeted interception, remote search, acquisition of bulk personal datasets and retention of internet connection records by CSPs (Communication Services Providers) as well as oversight and authorisation matters. The fact that data retention is once again introduced in the UK, as it is third time British government is trying to push it through, is especially daunting. Previous attempts were neutralised by judgement of CJEU that declared Data Retention Directive illegal and by decision of the UK High Court, which ordered two sections of the Data Retention and Regulation of Investigatory Powers – apparently British government refuses to be bound by judiciary.

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Google Spain v AEPD and Gonzáles and retention directive – European Court of Justice v Information Age

At first glance recent ruling by European Court of Justice in Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González was nothing but victory of privacy rights. Restriction in Google’s seemingly unlimited power in revealing or obscuring content related to personal data might be seen as a significant step towards transferring control over personal information back to those who are most interested in their flow. On the other hand isn’t it a form of censorship and ‘re-writing history’? As always with intersection of law and new technologies question remains whether there are technical means to implement the ruling – while everyone is aware that Google is able to control the search results content (eg SafeSearch) it appears that removing specific information about specific person is much more challenging – to begin with how many ‘Gonzalezes’ are there in Spain. Google v Gonzales is not first judgement of the year related to privacy and personal data. In April ECJ ruled that retention directive is invalid due to interference with fundamental rights – which from legal standpoint is even more interesting since at the time directive came into force, fundamental rights were not codified within European Union. However let’s begin with Google Spain v Gonzales.

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