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High Court Bans UK Government From Bulk Hacking

Mon Jan 11 2021

Privacy Intelligence are celebrating their High Court win over UK Police & Intelligence agencies

In a ruling last week the High Court completely halted the ability of UK security & intelligence services to conduct ‘bulk surveillance’ with just a single warrant, based on a challenge brought by the privacy charity Privacy International

 

Bulk surveillance from the UK’s security and intelligence agencies first came to light after Edward Snowden’s shocking revelations back in 2014, which prompted the UK Government to argue that the practice of using a single warrant to conduct surveillance and hack every device in an entire city was lawful.

That stance was backed in 2016 by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) who concluded that the use of hacking warrants was legal.

This was then challenged by Privacy International but dismissed by the Government on a legal technicality who subsequently rolled in some ‘hacking powers’ to the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act.

But… in 2019 the UK Supreme Court ruled that the IPT’s decision on bulk surveillance needed to be reviewed by the High Court.

 

That case was heard by the High Court back in December who arrived at their judgement last week, finding that intelligence agencies had no right to rely on general warrants for certain types of property interference (which includes hacking).

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The aversion to general warrants is one of the basic principles on which the law of the United Kingdom is founded. As such, it may not be overridden by statute unless the wording of the statute makes clear that Parliament intended to do so.

High Court Judgment

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Privacy International also released a statement which read:

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In the digital age, where a general warrant could easily enable spying on hundreds, thousands or even millions of people, this is a major victory. Today's victory rightly brings 250 years of legal precedent into the modern age. General warrants are no more permissible today than they were in the 18th century. The government had been getting away with using them for too long. We welcome the High Court's affirmation of these fundamental constitutional principles.

Caroline Wilson Palow - Legal Director, Privacy International

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Mon Jan 11 2021

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