Predecessor to the government’s Snoopers’ Charter deemed unlawful, which is a problem for the current Investigatory Powers Act

After years of legal wrangling the UK’s Court of Appeal has ruled the UK government broke the law by letting public bodies grant themselves access to citizens’ internet activity and phone records.

Following a legal challenge, originally brought by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson in 2014, the Court of Appeal ruled that significant parts of the government’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) breached British people’s rights because it gave access to personal details with no suspicion of serious criminal activity, and it let police and public bodies authorise their own access to data.

The ruling is significant because even though DRIPA expired at the end of 2016, its successor the Investigatory Powers Act – dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter – which started to come into force in 2017, re-legislated and expanded the powers found unlawful today.

So, effectively, significant parts of the Snoopers’ Charter are also unlawful.

“Yet again a UK court has ruled the Government’s extreme mass surveillance regime unlawful. This judgment tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public’s human rights. The latest incarnation of the Snoopers’ Charter, the Investigatory Powers Act, must be changed,” said Martha Spurrier, director of the human rights group Liberty, which represented Watson in the case.

“No politician is above the law. When will the Government stop bartering with judges and start drawing up a surveillance law that upholds our democratic freedoms?”

Image courtesy of Global Panorama

Watson originally challenged DRIPA in 2014, when he argued the Act contained inadequate protections for British people’s fundamental rights and let hundreds of organisations and government agencies grant themselves access to highly personal and revealing data.

Even though the High Court agreed with Watson, ruling in his favour in 2015, the government appealed the decision, so the Court of Appeal referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification.

In December 2016, the ECJ echoed the High Court’s ruling – and went further, setting down a series of safeguards that the government needed to introduce to properly protect people’s privacy.

As a result of the ECJ judgment, the UK’s Home Office accepted that the Investigatory Powers Act needed changing, but the changes it proposed fell far short of what the ECJ said was needed.

“This legislation was flawed from the start. It was rushed through Parliament just before recess without proper parliamentary scrutiny,” said Tom Watson MP.

“The government must now bring forward changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are innocent victims or witnesses to crime, are protected by a system of independent approval for access to communications data. I’m proud to have played my part in safeguarding citizen’s fundamental rights.”

Liberty is also challenging the Investigatory Powers Act in a separate case, having crowdfunded more than £50,000 in just a few days to support its challenge.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC