Citing security challenges linked to Syria and Iraq, prime minister David Cameron on Thursday presided over a cabinet meeting to approve an emergency legislation to ensure that the security services could continue to access people’s phone and internet records.
Amidst renewed concerns from civil liberties groups that it will infringe on the right to privacy, Cameron said the law was needed after the Court of Justice of the European Court (CJEU) struck down a directive requiring phone and internet companies to retain communications data for 12 months.
The court’s recent ruling is applicable to Britain. Cameron wanted the new law to ensure that British security officials could continue to monitor security-related data, and prevent the information from being destroyed by phone and internet companies.
Cameron said in a statement: “It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised. As events in Iraq and Syria demonstrate, now is not the time to be scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe”.
He added: “The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK. No government introduces fast-track legislation lightly. But the consequences of not acting are grave”.
Campaign group Open Rights Group criticised the government for using the threat of terrorism to get push through an “emergency law” that it says has no legal basis.