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Privacy warriors take legal action over UK gov's right to hack

Privacy International challenges the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (again)

Privacy International is reviving its challenge against the UK government's right to issue general hacking warrants. It's filed for the High Court to review the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) decision that ruled the warrants are legal.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, or Snoopers’ Charter, is currently under consideration and could cement this right into law.

Initial complaints against the IPT were brought forward by Privacy International and seven internet and communications companies in May 2014. They argued that under the European Convention of Human Rights, GCHQ and other authorities had no right to hack as it violated the rights to privacy and freedom of speech.

In February, however, the IPT responded by rejecting both claims.

This would mean that the UK Government could continue passing general warrants to organisations such as GCHQ, allowing them to hack computers and phones of both UK and non-UK residents without the need for judges to sign-off the warrant first.

Privacy International is worried about the scope of general warrants, saying that it could mean “an entire class of unidentified persons or property, such as "all mobile phones in Nottingham” could be hacked.

“The common law is clear that a warrant must target an identified individual or group of identified individuals”, it added.

Warrants targeting large groups of people would mean an “unprecedented expansion of state surveillance capabilities” and would undermine the security of computers and the Internet, Privacy International says.

Scarlet Kim, Legal Officer at Privacy International said: “By sanctioning this power, the IPT has upended 250 years of common law that makes clear such warrants are unlawful.

“Combined with the power to hack, these warrants represent an extraordinary expansion of state surveillance capabilities with alarming consequences for the security of our devices and the internet." ®

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