UK Surveillance Oversight Board Says It's All Cool When GCHQ Hacks Basically Anyone

from the hack-away,-snoops dept

This isn’t a huge surprise, but the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal — which is a sort of extremely weak “oversight” board, charged with making sure that the GCHQ isn’t violating the law, but with no real powers over GCHQ and a history of supporting its spying, has now said that the GCHQ’s hacking of computers, networks and phones is perfectly fine.

This was in response to a challenge mounted by Privacy International. The IPT was not too concerned about GCHQ spying, and even said that it’s fine even without naming specific targets:

As Privacy International has said in response, this appears to completely wipe out the idea that “general warrants” (i.e., not against named individuals/targets) are (and have been) unlawful:

?The IPT has decided that GCHQ can use ?thematic warrants?, which means GCHQ can hack an entire class of property or persons, such as ?all phones in Birmingham?.

?In doing so, it has upended a longstanding English common law principle that such general warrants are unlawful. Allowing governments to hack places the security and stability of the internet and the information we exchange on it at stake.?

This is an unfortunate decision, if not that surprising. But yet another reminder that perhaps the UK is a dangerous place for technology firms to do business these days.

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Comments on “UK Surveillance Oversight Board Says It's All Cool When GCHQ Hacks Basically Anyone”

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17 Comments
Richard (profile) says:

Just the UK?

This is an unfortunate decision, if not that surprising. But yet another reminder that perhaps the UK is a dangerous place for technology firms to do business these days.

How Naive!

Given the “Five Eyes” system, everything that can happen in ANY of US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can also happen in ALL of those places. Each of them has a different local profile of abuse but the overall effect is that the union of all the abuses can happen in the union of all the places.

So where else you gonna go?

Continental Europe?

Well there you’ve got all of the above – plus “right to be forgotten” and even more abusive collection societies (eg GEMA).

OK lets go to a small independent country – well any such country is at the mercy of US bullying so no joy there.

That just leaves China, Russia, India, maybe one or two of the larger S. American countries, Africa and the Islamic world. All of these have their own problems that have been well documented on this site. OK lets try outer space – well there was that “Space Oddity” incident on the ISS.

So – seriously – where ARE you going to go.

Anonymous Coward says:

Australia brought in similar laws last year. The language is so vague that a single warrant can arguably be issued to cover hacking the entire internet.

Of course, the “warrant” is only signed by one of the politicians that wrote the law in the first place, so it is basically meaningless.

They also wrote law that said spies are immune to prosecution.

What is the opposite of “enlightenment”?

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hey, the British government has a history of general warrants. Those were one of the main reasons that they lost 13 colonies in North America about 240 years ago.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the last of their ‘sortof-part-of-us-but-not’ possessions like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland slipped away from them over them taking up the practice again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Aren’t all these spy organisations set up to keep the status quo anyways. If change is happening they will start wars, fabricate coups, assassinate people and this means access to as much information as possible to make it as easy as possible. The public loves it even if it hurts them because hey terrorism and kiddyporn is the perfect excuse to use for the general ‘dumb’ public who does not have a clue how easily this information can be used against them. But hey Hollywood can make some more movies/shows about this so that’s good I guess. Kappa.

Mark Wing (user link) says:

Malware like Flame and Stuxnet are being created by the US government, released (or escaping) into the wild, and yet the CFAA doesn’t mean anything if you say “but, terrorism” first. But download a bunch of public domain files and you’ll have the FBI on your ass, threatening you with decades in prison.

Please tell me how any of the laws regarding technology and content mean shit? The entire free world’s technology policy is a fucking joke, and breaking the law is just code for pissing the wrong people off.

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