WhatsApp is safe: government's plan to spy on your data ruled unlawful

Spy another day

WhatsApp

The UK High Court has ruled that parts of the government's surveillance plans are unlawful, while Downing Street has confirmed it won't be banning apps like WhatsApp.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, permitting agencies and public bodies to gather information about phone calls and emails, was deemed to be "inconsistent with EU law", reports the BBC. The government has been told it must pass new legislation to be enacted by the end of next March.

The Data Retention act was challenged by Labour MP Tom Watson and Conservative MP David Davis.

Both argued that it was not harmonious with article eight of the European convention on human rights and articles seven and eight of the EU charter of fundamental rights. These concern the respect for privacy and the protection of personal data.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act was fast-tracked by the coalition government last year. But a lack of adequate safeguards mean that data obtained could be accessed by a large number of public authorities, not limited to criminal investigations.

The home secretary has been granted permission to appeal against the ruling, but for now, your apps are safe.

Safe for now

This week, many of the UK press have reported that the UK government wants to ban WhatsApp as part of the Snooper's Charter. We didn't report on this for one simple reason: there was no evidence that anyone had said it. And indeed, Downing Street later debunked the myth.

Last month, David Cameron hinted that a crack-down on encryption could be on the cards, though it wasn't explicitly said out loud. This led to a lot of speculation that an all-out attack encryption could be on the cards, with the potential for encryption-using services like WhatsApp and Snapchat banned in the UK.

But the government's clarification means it's unlikely that we'll see these services banned any time soon, while today's ruling has ensured the services will be safe from intrusion for the time being.

[Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the government's clarification on banning encrypted services was part of today's ruling. That actually came from a separate statement from Number 10, and the article has been updated to reflect this]

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