The UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the Snoopers’ Charter, has met with a major stumbling block. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled that it is too indiscriminatory and that only targeted monitoring of people’s Internet and other communication activity is acceptable.
Which sounds a coherent argument, whether or not you agree with it. What is perhaps surprising is that the person who took the case to Europe is none other than David Davis MP, a back bench MP when he initiated the action but now Brexit secretary. He took the action in conjunction with Labour’s Tom Watson.
Pulling out of the European Union does not necessarily mean moving away from the ECJ, but this instance illustrates the uncertainty of the “hard Brexiters'” case – presumably there are many who would cut all ties with everything European. This is a debate for somewhere other than a technology publication but it’s notable that Europe has had its effect in the field.
What about the Snoopers’ Charter now?
The end result could go two ways. First, the government could decide to amend the bill. Having watched its predecessor, DRIPA, being declared illegal already in 2014, there may be scant appetite for this.
Second, there is the possibility of the waiting game. Once the UK exits the EU there is a possibility – not a certainty as negotiations have not yet started – that the UK will no longer be bound by the rulings of the ECJ so the government could plough ahead. This would be hampered by the fact that the High Court also ruled against DRIPA, but only against the backdrop of the EU framework in which UK legislation has for the last 40 years existed.
The final result is therefore open to conjecture, as is the effect on the market for IT professionals.
Implications for recruitment
It’s possible, then, that this law will eventually be implemented by a UK outside the EU. This could make life difficult for organisations needing to recruit technology professionals. Organisations sometimes have to recruit for skills available internationally, and persuading people, particularly from the IT-savvy community, to come and work somewhere with more stringent surveillance laws than the rest of Europe allows could prove tricky.