Edward Snowden exposed a world which some speculated, but few publically acknowledged. A world where every piece of information we send, be it through phone or computer, is monitored and recorded among thousands of others all searching for that one thing. The public has since been in an up cry about it, asking if it was even legal due to the severe invasion of privacy it entailed in order to do the most basic monitoring without legally requesting permission from a judge. From the use of the stingrays to intercept mobile communication, to the ruling stating that the mass collection of phone data in America was illegal, the law and digital monitoring has been at heads for a while now. The UK government has a simple answer, change the law.
GCHQ is the UK government’s digital branch in charge of monitoring electronic communications. It would seem that the Computer Misuse Act, one of the biggest pieces of legislation regarding hacking and the legality of using computers to access networks, was quietly rewritten on the 3rd of March 2015. The change in the legislation would essentially make the intelligence services exempt from legal action regarding hacking because they would be exempt from the legal areas outlining what is legal hacking.
Several large companies, including internet and communication services, filed complaints back in 2014 stating that the GCHQ’s activities would be considered unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act and that there was no legal authority that could be used to make their practices in line with the law. This is a problem, especially given that hacking is an invasion of privacy, something considered a fundamental human right.
The legislation involved is called the Serious Crime Bill 2015, and came into effect on the 3rd May 2015, only two months after it was quietly passed amongst government groups without any public consultation. So not only does GCHQ now have the ability to hack people, they are practically immune to legal action regarding this (even though they have been found to be in breach of several sections of Law), this also means however that all current cases against GCHQ would be rendered null given that they now covered under a separate law. Also given that the code has not be subject to parliamentary process such as debates or discussions the changes have effectively rendered their illegal practises legal and their control over hacking (even those who have not been found as a threat to national security or suspected in a crime) exempt from legal process in what is turning out to be the biggest threat to the rights and laws of the 21st Century.
What do you think of this? I will refrain from commenting for fear that this post will be intercepted and my communications monitored. Personally, I really dislike that they have done this.
Thank you Privacy International for providing us with this information.
Image Courtesy of Reuters.