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  • EU data retention ruling goes against UK government

    Woman using a laptopImage copyrightPA

    The UK government says it is "disappointed" after the European Court of Justice said the "indiscriminate" collection of data was against EU law.

    EU judges said communications data could only be retained if it was used to fight serious crime.

    Its verdict came after a legal challenge to the UK government's surveillance legislation.

    The challenge was initially championed by Brexit Secretary David Davis, who was then a backbench Conservative MP.

    The Lib Dems said the ruling proved the government had "overstepped the mark" with its Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, branded the "snoopers' charter" by critics, which requires communications companies to retain data for 12 months.

    The ECJ has ruled that a "general and indiscriminate retention" of data is against EU law and can only be done under certain conditions and "solely for the purpose of fighting serious crime".

    Its ruling confirms a preliminary verdict in July. The case now returns to the UK Court of Appeal, which had referred the case to the ECJ for clarification.

    Mr Davis, who had long campaigned on civil liberties issues, left the case after Theresa May appointed him to her cabinet in July.

    Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader, who is one of those bringing the case, said: "This ruling shows it's counter-productive to rush new laws through Parliament without a proper scrutiny."

    The Home Office said it would be putting forward "robust arguments" to the Court of Appeal.

    It added: "Given the importance of communications data to preventing and detecting crime, we will ensure plans are in place so that the police and other public authorities can continue to acquire such data in a way that is consistent with EU law and our obligation to protect the public."


    Investigatory Powers Act

    • Replaces the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act, which expires at the end of December
    • The government says it gives police and the intelligence agencies the tools to keep people safe and addressing "ongoing capability gaps"
    • But critics have dubbed it a "snoopers' charter", raising civil liberties concerns
    • Among the measures is the requirement for communications companies - like broadband or mobile phone providers - to hold a year's worth of communications data
    • Under existing law, agencies can already ask firms to start collecting this data - but they can't access historic information because companies don't keep it

    The government said it would not make any changes until the Court of Appeal had ruled on the legal challenge to the legislation.

    The term 'communications data' refers to details such as the time and date of a phone call being made or an email being sent - but not its contents.

    The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act expires at the end of December, and new legislation, the Investigatory Powers Act, is in place.

    Campaign group Liberty, which represented Mr Watson, said: "Today's judgment upholds the rights of ordinary British people not to have their personal lives spied on without good reason or an independent warrant.

    "The government must now make urgent changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to comply with this."

    Read more »
  • Reddit CEO Steve Huffman admits changing posts made by Donald Trump supporters

    Reddit logo

    Reddit's chief executive Steve Huffman has admitted editing posts made about him by Donald Trump fans on the site.

    He says rather than change the meaning of the posts, he simply redirected abuse targeted at him to the moderators of the r/the_donald thread.

    His admission follows news that the site had banned a community board dedicated to discussing a conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton.

    The "Pizzagate" conspiracy alleged that Hillary and her campaign chief were involved in a child abuse ring operating out of a pizza restaurant in Washington DC.

    The manager of the restaurant says he has been receiving death threats and has reached out to social networks to help him stop the conspiracy theory from spreading.

    As the CEO, I shouldn't play such games, and it's all fixed now
    Steve Huffman
    Reddit chief executive

    "It's been a long week here trying to unwind the r/pizzagate stuff," Huffman said in a post on Reddit.

    "As much as we try to maintain a good relationship with you all, it does get old getting called a paedophile constantly.

    "As the CEO, I shouldn't play such games, and it's all fixed now."

    He said colleagues were angry with his actions and he "most assuredly won't do this again".

    Many Reddit members were furious that the website's chief executive had edited messages, and accused him of censorship.

    Huffman co-founded Reddit more than a decade ago.

    He left to work on online travel service Hipmunk, before returning to Reddit as chief executive last year.

    Reddit users were frustrated last year after community manager Victoria Taylor was fired.

    It sparked a huge protest by users of the site, with moderators closing down parts of the site and led to the chief executive at the time, Ellen Pao, resigning.

    Read more »
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