The European Union has ruled that the “general and and indiscriminate” collection of computer data by governments is only permitted when used to fight serious crime. The decision, handed down today by the European Court of Justice, directly challenges the UK’s recently-passed surveillance legislation, which includes plans to retain every citizen’s mobile and desktop browser history for up to a year.
The Court notes that the collection of such data means citizens feel they are under “constant surveillance” and allows governments to draw “very precise conclusions” about their private lives. “Only the objective of fighting serious crime is capable of justifying such interference,” said the Court, adding that legislation like the UK’s “exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified within a democratic society.”
While I have my reservations about many of the EU’s institutions (I’m actually a proponent of the concept of the EU – just not the current execution), the EU courts have consistently been a stalwart ally in citizen’s rights.