British government accused of ‘breaking law’ by forcing companies to retain data

The British government could face a high court challenge after being accused of breaking the law by forcing telecoms and internet providers to retain records of phone calls, texts and internet usage. The accusations come months after Europe’s highest court said that such data retention breached citizens’ fundamental right to privacy. The high court challenge could force the government to strike down the law, enacted in 2009 by the previous Labour administration. The Data Retention (EC Direction) Act of 2009 requires providers to keep data for 18 months. In April, the European court of justice declared the directive invalid. In an opinion delivered in January, the court’s advocate general,  Pedro Cruz Villalón, said that it constituted a “serious interference with … the right to privacy and the right to protection of personal data”. However, the UK government has not yet moved to invalidate the Act and notified telecoms providers that “they should continue to observe their obligations as outlined in any notice”, despite the ruling. A Home Office spokesman said the department was “looking at the issue as a matter of urgency, and deciding what steps need to be taken to ensure public authorities can continue to access communications data. “However, we have advised communications service providers that the UK Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 remain in force.” They also added that “the retention of communications data is absolutely fundamental to ensure law enforcement have the powers they need to investigate crime, protect the public and ensure national security”. The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Setfords Solicitors are a national full service law firm, with IT  law solicitors in Coventry and across the country.