European judges have upended the ability of government to pry on emails and telephone calls after ruling that the retention of communication records by police and spy agencies was unlawful.
The decision prevents authorities from accessing such records should they become necessary in pursuit of terrorism or serious crime inquiries, throwing a hefty spanner in the works of such investigations.
At present internet and telephone firms are required to hold such records for between six months and two years under a 2006 EU directive but this latest intervention, by the European Court of Justice, declared this invalid.
In the resulting confusion UK service providers have said they will continue to retain data for the time being – but are seeking urgent clarification from the Home Office and European Commission.
Around 1,400 requests for phone call and email data are made each day, prompting the court to decide that it represented a ‘serious interference’ in people’s ‘rights to respect for private life’.