Privacy International, a London based charity, were notified of a change in legislation which passed into law on March 3rd, 2015 and came into effect on May 3rd, 2015. The change in legislation effectively grants law enforcement agencies in the UK immunity from prosecution for hacking electrical devices and networks including personal computers and smart phones.
On June 6th last year, Privacy International along with seven Internet and communications service providers from around the world filed a claim with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) against the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) for alleged hacking activities. The news came just one day before the parties were due to attend a hearing of the claim despite the fact that the legislation change was submitted just a few weeks after the claim was originally filed last year.
Eric King the Deputy Director of Privacy International responded with the statement:
“The underhand and undemocratic manner in which the Government is seeking to make lawful GCHQ’s hacking operations is disgraceful. Hacking is one of the most intrusive surveillance capabilities available to any intelligence agency, and its use and safeguards surrounding it should be the subject of proper debate. Instead, the government is continuing to neither confirm nor deny the existence of a capability it is clear they have, while changing the law under the radar, without proper parliamentary debate.”
A spokesperson for the home office released the following statement rejecting the claims of the group:
“There have been no changes made to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 by the Serious Crime Act 2015 that increase or expand the ability of the intelligence agencies to carry out lawful cyber crime investigation.”
The Parliamentary guidance notes detailing the amendments state the intention is to “remove any ambiguity over the interaction between the lawful exercise of powers … and the offence provisions.”
Meanwhile GCHQ are advertising on their website to recruit network operations specialists who “might need to develop software to access the computers of a terrorist group”.
Do you think our governments are using terrorism as an excuse to invade our privacy and monitor us or do you sleep safely knowing they are employing every means possible to keep us safe from those who would seek to harm us?
Featured image courtesy from gchq.gov.uk