Privacy International is taking the British Government to court. Why? Because it is using 'general warrants' to hack the electronic devices (computers, phones, tablets, and the increasing number of things that 'connect' to the internet) of people. General warrants permit the government to target wide categories of people, places or property (e.g. all mobile phones in London) without any individualised suspicion.
Hacking is an incredibly intrusive power, permitting the Government to secretly break into our devices to seach, copy, alter or delete data or execute functions like covertly turning on the microphone. It represents a dangerous and unprecedented expansion of state surveillance capabilities. The Government's deployment of such capabilities through general warrants has alarming consequences for the privacy and security of many people.
This case doesn't only affect people in the UK. Under a general warrant, the British Government can hack the devices of anyone, wherever they are located. Our case therefore fights to protect the privacy of people all over the world.
SUPPORT OUR CHALLENGE!
To challenge mass government hacking, we need your help!
Our case against the British Government has potential cost consequences. If we lose, the court order us to pay the Government's costs. We have applied for a 'Protective Costs Order', which has capped at £15,000 the sum we have to pay if we lose. The Government's actual legal costs ould be significantly higher.
Still, as a charity with limited resources, we need help in raising this money. This is where you come in. Any donation you make, large or small, will help us both fight this important case, and also protect the future of Privacy International so we can go on fighting for people's right to privacy all over the world.
What happens to the money I donate if Privacy International wins the case and you therefore don't have to pay the Government's costs?
Because of our limited resources, and our work on a range of other important campaigns, we would divert these donations to other areas of our work. We are a charity so we would only use your donations for activities tied to our mission of the right to privacy and other fundamental human rights.
Our case challenges a decision by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that the Government can to hack our electronic devices. This decision fundamentally undermines 250 years of English common law, which has long rejected general warrants. The common law is clear that a warrant must target an identified individual or . Parliament has not passed a law overriding that fundamental right, so the British Government's use of general hacking warrants is incompatible with UK law.
In the US, the prohibition against general warrants has a similarly long history. In the years prior to the American Revolution, the British Government relied on general warrants to raid and search the homes of American colonists without any individualised suspicion of criminal activity. It is therefore "familiar history", as the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Payton v. New York, that "indiscriminate searches and seizures conducted under the authority of 'general warrants' were the immediate evils that motivated the framing and adoption of the Fourth Amendment" to the US Constitution. The Fourth Amendment explicitly states that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause . . . and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The Tribunal's decision is also contrary to international human rights law, particularly Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protectthe right to privacy. By permitting the British Government to hack broad classes of people or property - such as 'all mobile phones in London' - without individualised suspicion, general warrants fail to protect against arbitrary interference and abuse. They are also, by virtue of their untargeted nature, intrinsically disproportionate.
The British Government is not geographically constrained. A general warrant authorises hacking anywhere in the world.
Please use the form on the right side of this page to donate to our appeal!
Privacy International originally brought a complaint in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal against British Government hacking in May 2014. We were soon joined in our complaint by se internet and communications providers from around the world. Our complaint argued that the British Government had no authority under UK law to hack, and that such activities violated Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which respectively protect the rights to privacy and freedom of . The Tribunal rejected both of these claims in February 2016.
he Tribunal accepted the British Government's position that it was permitted to seek general warrants to hack sweeping groups of unidentified persons, places or property inside and outside the UK. We are pursuing a 'judicial review' - a special challenge to the lawfulness of a decision by a public body - to fight the British Government's use of general warrants to hack.
Hacking is one of the most intrusive surveillance capabilities available to the Government and entails a serious interference with the right to privacy. Using hacking capabilities, the Government can log keystrokes, track locations, take covert photographs and videos, and access stored information. Hacking can also be used to corrupt files, plant or delete documents and data, or send fake communications from a device. These techniques can be mobilised against entire networks, compromising the devices of large groups of people.
Hacking undermines the security of computers and the internet. The security holes created by hacking can be exploited by many other people, including cybercriminals and other governments' intelligence agencies. It is the modern equivalent of covertly breaking into a house and leaving the locks damaged for others to discover. It undermines the security of all our communciations, including those forming the core of financial and other everyday transactions.
The Tribunal's decision not only sanctions state-sponsored hacking of individuals, but permits its use at an industrial scale. A single general warrant can grant the Government a blank check to hack hundreds or thousands of devices without demonstrating to a judge that each person affected is suspected of a crime or a threat to national security.