Privacy International has announced the filing of a Judicial Review with the High Court to challenge the government's issuance of what the organisation is calling 'general hacking warrants.'
In 2014, Privacy International brought a complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) arguing that the Government Communications Headquarters' (GCHQ) use of active attacks against broad swathes of people for the purposes of obtaining illicit access to their computers - something PI refers to as 'hacking,' a more modern use of a term which dates back to the entirely innocent activities of computing pioneers and which originally held no negative connotations. In it, the non-governmental organisation and a total of seven global telecommunications firms argued that this was in violation of Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect the right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech.
In February this year, the IPT told PI that it had found in favour of GCHQ, and further that the UK intelligence agency was legally free to issue broad 'thematic warrants' giving it the right to attack computer systems both inside and outside the UK - as broad, PI argues, as 'all mobile phones in Nottingham.'
'The IPT's decision grants the Government carte blanche to hack hundreds or thousands of people's computers and phones with a single warrant,' argued Scarlet Kim, legal officer at Privacy International, following the filing of a Judicial Review against the IPT's decision this week. 'General warrants permit GCHQ to target an entire class of persons or property without proving to a judge that each person affected is suspected of a crime or a threat to national security. 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.'
Neither the IPT nor GCHQ itself has commented on the filing.