British cyberspooks face a challenge in court


GCHQ stands for Government Communications Headquarters, but it’s really Old Blighty’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency and was created to spy on the communications of foreign governments.

GCHQ’s most famous success was cracking German military codes during World War II, and it has partnered with the younger NSA for years.

But now the super-secret agency faces a new legal challenge.

From Ars Technica:

GCHQ will face scrutiny by the European Court of Human Rights, after Privacy International lodged an official complaint against the UK eavesdropping nerve centre’s use of bulk hacking abroad.

The complaint is the latest in a series of attempts by the organisation to bring GCHQ surveillance to heel.

In February, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal failed to decide whether GCHQ’s activities breach Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights protecting the right to privacy and freedom of speech.

However it did say that the British government was within its rights to issue general warrants to hack electronic devices under section 7 of the Intelligence Service Act 1994. Privacy International has sought an appeal against that decision with a judicial review at the UK High Court.

It now wants a legal ruling on the question of whether section 7 is permitted under the convention.

“The government is currently hacking abroad based on a very vague and broad power that provides few if any safeguards on this incredibly intrusive power,” said the organisation.

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