Government Lets GCHQ Off the Hook for Snooping

By Nick Cowen on at

Are you an operative in a government body that has been collecting information willy-nilly on your country's citizens? Have your activities been ruled unlawful by the judicial body that investigates this sort of thing? Are you possibly staring down the barrel of prosecution for said snooping?

Well, here's hoping your government has your back and quietly passes new legislation that exempt from prosecution. Don't worry – it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they'd do this. After all, that's what the UK government has done.

About a year ago, local charity Privacy International filed a complaint with The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) about the GCHQ using the NSA's Prism and Upstream tools to gain access to private communications by hacking computers and smart devices. In an about-turn to the way the IPT normally behaves, it ruled that this gathering of information was unlawful, since it contravened human rights laws.

Perhaps in response to this complaint – and since Privacy International has released a statement suggesting it was the case – the UK government quietly introduced the new laws under the Serious Crime Bill that effectively allows GCHQ, to hack away with impunity.

"We had previously thought [hacking] in this country to be unlawful,” Ben Jaffey, a lawyer representing Privacy International told The Guardian. “The effect of this amendment has passed everyone by. Attention was not called to it during the parliamentary process, which may not have been accidental. It was hidden in plain sight.”

The bill was signed into law in March of this year and went into effect on May 3rd. So if you have any illicit pictures of cats on your PC, now would be the time to get rid of them since you have no recourse, it seems, to prevent GCHQ from helping themselves.