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

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Mike Masnick
Tech Dirt
February 13, 2016

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.

This article was posted: Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 8:44 am

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