We will continue to challenge GCHQ's hacking powers

Press release

In response to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruling today that GCHQ's hacking is lawful, we have issued the following press statement:

"We are disappointed by the IPT’s judgment today, which has found Government hacking lawful based on a broad interpretation of a law dating back to 1994, when the internet and mobile phone technology were in their infancy.

Until we brought this case, GCHQ  would neither confirm nor deny that it was they were engaging in mass hacking of computers, mobile devices and entire computer networks.

During the course of the proceedings the Government sought to create law 'on the hoof', changing anti-hacking laws (the Computer Misuse Act 1984) through an addition to the Serious Crime Act 2015 and producing a Code of Practice for hacking. Hacking is one of the most intrusive surveillance capabilities available to intelligence agencies. This case exposed not only these secret practices but also the undemocratic manner in which the Government sought to backdate powers to do this under the radar. Just because the Government magically produces guidelines for hacking should not legitimise this practice.

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. Its decision is also contrary to the finding of the Joint Committee on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which recommended that hacking warrants should not be "used as a way to issue thematic warrants concerning a very large number of people." We will challenge this undermining of the fundamental right that a warrant should identify a specific property or person.

Allowing Governments to hack places the security and stability of the internet and the information we exchange on it at stake."

Scarlet Kim, Legal Officer, Privacy International