The termination of the Swedish investigation is, in one sense, good news for Assange. But it is unlikely to change his inability to leave the embassy any time soon. If anything, given the apparent determination of the Trump administration to put him in a U.S. prison cell for the “crime” of publishing documents, his freedom appears further away than it has since 2010, when the Swedish case began.
“Today is an important victory for me,” Assange says, adding that his seven-year legal ordeal, which he calls unjust detention, “is not something that I can forgive.”It was “extremely regretful” that he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy, he added,
The European Union’s top court has severely undermined the British government’s mass surveillance powers in a new ruling that could rein in police and spy agency investigations.In a judgment handed down in Luxembourg on Wednesday, the European Court of Justice declared that the “general and indiscriminate retention” of data about people’s communications and locations was inconsistent with privacy rights. The court stated that the “highly invasive” bulk storage of private data “exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified, within a democratic society.”
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new law is that it will give the British government the authority to serve internet service providers with a “data retention notice,” forcing them to record and store for up to 12 months logs showing websites visited by all of their customers. Law enforcement agencies will then be able to obtain access to this data without any court order or warrant. In addition, the new powers will hand police and tax investigators the ability to, with the approval of a government minister, hack into targeted phones and computers.
A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.
Following on from our recent victory against unlawful surveillance by the British intelligence services, Privacy International is taking the British Government to court again. Why? Because it is using ‘general warrants’ to hack the electronic devices (computers, phones, tablets, and the increasing number of things that ‘connect’ to the internet) of sweeping groups of unidentified people at home and abroad. General warrants permit the government to target wide categories of people, places or property (e.g. all mobile phones in London) without any individualised suspicion of wrongdoing.
Ten organizations – including Privacy International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Amnesty International – are taking up the landmark case against the U.K. government in the European Court of Human Rights (pictured above). In a 115-page complaint released on Thursday, the groups allege that “blanket and indiscriminate” surveillance operations carried out by British spy agencies in collaboration with their U.S. counterparts violate privacy and freedom of expression rights.
Love, 31, who has Asperger syndrome, could face a 99-year prison sentence for hacking into missile defence centres
A few years ago the idea of someone publishing explicit photographs of a former lover, out of spite or as a form of blackmail, was still in the realms of fiction. But advances in technology have created fresh opportunities for sexual predators, and the criminal justice system is finding it difficult to cope with new forms of aggressive and controlling behaviour.
GCHQ, Britain’s national security surveillance agency, has been ordered to destroy legally privileged communications it unlawfully collected from a Libyan rendition victim.
The ruling marks the first time in its 15-year history that the investigatory powers tribunal has upheld a specific complaint against the intelligence services, lawyers have said. It is also the first time the tribunal has ordered a security service to give up surveillance material.
The IPT says GCHQ must destroy two documents which are legally privileged communications belonging to a former opponent of the Gaddafi regime, Sami al-Saadi, who was sent back to Libya in 2004 in a joint MI6-CIA “rendition” operation with his wife and four children under 12.
The tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Burton, ruled that GCHQ must give an undertaking that parts of those documents must be “destroyed or deleted so as to render such information inaccessible to the agency in the future”. The agency has to submit a secret report within 14 days confirming that the destruction has been carried out.
GCHQ has also been ordered to hand over a hard copy of the papers to the interception of communications commissioner within seven days. They will be kept safe for five years in case there are further legal proceedings or an inquiry.
The tribunal says that although the two documents contain information covered by legal privilege they did not disclose or refer to any legal advice: “The tribunal, after careful consideration, is [also] satisfied that there was no use or disclosure of the privileged information for the purpose of defending the civil claim brought by [Saadi] and others.”
This is a compensation claim against Jack Straw, the then foreign secretary, and the Foreign Office, being brought by Saadi along with another prominent opponent of Gaddafi, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his family, for their role in their rendition and subsequent torture in Libya in 2004.
Google has failed in its attempt in the court of appeal to prevent British consumers having the right to sue the internet firm in the UK.
A group known as Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking wants to take legal action in the English courts over what it says is Google’s tracking of Apple’s Safari internet browser.
It has accused Google of bypassing security settings in order to track users’ online browsing and to target them with personalised advertisements.
Three judges have dismissed Google’s appeal over a high court decision against it and ruled that claims for damages can be brought over allegations of misuse of private information.
Friday’s ruling was a victory for Safari Users, including editor and publisher Judith Vidal-Hall, and Robert Hann and Marc Bradshaw, who are both IT security company directors. They say Google’s “clandestine” tracking and collation of internet usage between summer 2011 and early 2012 led to distress and embarrassment among UK users.
They accuse Google of collecting private information without their knowledge and consent by the use of “cookies” – a small string of text saved on the user’s device.
Britain’s laws governing the intelligence agencies and mass surveillance require a total overhaul to make them more transparent, comprehensible and up to date, parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) has said in a landmark report prompted by the revelations of Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor.
The 18-month inquiry finds that the existing laws are not being broken by the agencies and insists the bulk collection of data by the government does not amount to mass surveillance or a threat to individual privacy.
But it also says that the legal framework is unnecessarily complicated and – crucially – lacks transparency. The current laws could be construed as providing the agencies with a “blank cheque to carry out whatever actives they deem necessary”, it says.
In what it describes as its key recommendation it calls for all the current legislation governing the intrusive capabilities of the security and intelligence agencies to be replaced by a new, single act of parliament.
This new legal framework should for the first time explicitly set out surveillance capabilities, detailing the authorisation procedures, privacy constraints, transparency requirements, targeting criteria, sharing arrangements, oversight, and other safeguards.
The report will form a central pillar of the discussions in the next parliament on how to redraft UK surveillance laws, including a report from the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) commissioned by Nick Clegg and work being undertaken by the commissioner on intelligence law.
This inquiry, disrupted by the last-minute resignation of the committee chairman, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, over allegations concerning cash for influence, has always been viewed sceptically by libertarians, who regard the ISC as the democratic voice for the agencies as opposed to their scrutineers.
The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.
Advocacy groups said the decision raised questions about the legality of intelligence-sharing operations between the UK and the US. The ruling appears to suggest that aspects of the operations were illegal for at least seven years – between 2007, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced, and 2014.
The critical judgment marks the first time since the IPT was established in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. It said that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the legal challenge at the IPT.
An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.
Philip Hammond has been criticised for not understanding the legislation surrounding government powers to sweep up and analyse huge volumes of electronic communications such as email.
Eric King, from rights group Privacy International, said the foreign secretary appeared “confused” while giving evidence to parliament’s intelligence and security committee. The committee is reviewing the need for new legislation to regulate the UK’s electronic espionage agency, GCHQ, in light of revelations on bulk data collection by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for US intelligence.
“It is clear that he [Hammond] is unfortunately confused about the effect of the warrants he is signing into force, how they deal with British communications and the difference between so-called internal communications and external communications,” said King. “This is one of the huge problems with having ministers sign warrants.”
Campaigners say that in testimony to the intelligence and security committee in October, Hammond appeared not to understand the details of how the warrants he was signing worked – including whether or not they allowed the interception of communications of UK residents.
During the session, Hammond – who oversees the work of GCHQ and the foreign intelligence agency MI6 – initially appeared to say that any email exchange in which either the sender or recipient was based in the UK was treated as an internal communication and therefore any government agency wanting to access it was subject to stricter controls under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).
Later he said that if either sender or recipient were outside the UK it was an external communication and therefore subject to a different warrant, which allows the foreign secretary to authorise much broader examination by the intelligence agencies than is the case with UK-based communications.
Britain’s legal regime governing mass surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies does not violate human rights, a tribunal has ruled.
But the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) said it had identified one area where it has concerns about the adequacy of legal safeguards.
The tribunal will decide whether the human rights groups that brought the case have had their communications intercepted unlawfully in the past and whether any interception discovered was proportionate. The judgment said: “We have left open for further argument the question as to whether prior hereto there has been such a breach.”
Human rights groups that brought the challenge said they would appeal to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg against the overall finding that the surveillance and information sharing with US agencies, such as the National Security Agency (NSA), is legal.
from the dangerous-and-stupid dept
Every so often, people who don’t really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: “just end real anonymity online.” They don’t seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is. It’s one that stems from the privilege of being in power. And who knows that particular privilege better than members of the House of Lords in the UK — a group that is more or less defined by excess privilege? The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has now issued a report concerning “social media and criminal offenses” in which they basically recommend scrapping anonymity online. It’s not a true “real names” proposal — as the idea is that web services would be required to collect real names at signup, but then could allow those users to do things pseudonymously or anonymously. But, still, their actions could then easily be traced back to a real person if the “powers that be” deemed it necessary. Here’s the key bit:
From our perspective in the United Kingdom, if the behaviour which is currently criminal is to remain criminal and also capable of prosecution, we consider that it would be proportionate to require the operators of websites first to establish the identity of people opening accounts but that it is also proportionate to allow people thereafter to use websites using pseudonyms or anonymously. There is little point in criminalising certain behaviour and at the same time legitimately making that same behaviour impossible to detect. We recognise that this is a difficult question, especially as it relates to jurisdiction and enforcement.
The report notes that the findings are “tentative” and that these recommendations might possibly “be an undesirably chilling step towards tyranny,” but they don’t seem that concerned about it, or they wouldn’t have made the general recommendation in the first place.
The ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling is actually a powerful tool for victims of revenge porn, but a new House of Lords report says no new laws are needed
Revenge porn is an undoubtedly vile phenomenon. A couple, often young and foolish with lust, get together and share trust and intimacy. In the modern style, they take pictures or videos of each other or “sext” each other revealing selfies.
Then they break up and he posts these pictures on a website and labels her a whore to the world. Modern love?
This is, of course, a very partial description. Revenge porn can cut across same-sex as well as heterosexual couples, and can be done by the girl to the boy as much as the other way round. Yet revenge porn is typically one of the nastiest offshoots of the misogynistic abuse rampant and normalised in the online space, as seen in recent cases like the Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy Twitter abuse storms.
How then do we try to stop revenge porn, as we undoubtedly should? The kneejerk reaction – which we saw in hasty and ill crafted amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill last week – is to say Something Must be Done. New criminal laws must be passed. Sentences must be extended. Draconian powers must be given demanding all social networks institute real name policies (even though these would be unenforceable and harm the vulnerable more than abusers).
Snowden leaks, the right to be forgotten and the care data scare have swelled the workload of the Information Commissioner’s Offices, according to its annual report
The UK’s privacy regulator has asked for increased funding from government as it seeks to deal with a mounting workload sparked by a series of controversies around data security and privacy.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has been swamped with more complaints than ever before, according to its annual report released today, with its in-tray unlikely to clear any time soon.
That is partly due to a recent EU ruling on people’s right to have entries removed from Google’s search results as part of their “right to be forgotten”, which has since led to a heated debate about censorship of information that is in the public interest.
The ICO is also already dealing with a number of complaints around the data practices of social networks, including investigating a psychology study conducted by Facebook, in which researchers attempted to manipulate users’ moods.
Other factors cited by the ICO in its appeal for more funding include NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks about GCHQ’s access to British citizens’ data, and the government-led Care.data project, with its plans to give GPs and hospitals access to shared databases of people’s healthcare records also running into opposition.
Opponents of the new legislation on surveillance being pushed through parliament this week say that it contains “sweeping new powers” to require communications and internet companies overseas to respond to requests from British government agencies for data.
But two issues appear to have been confused. The first is that of privacy, and the extent to which it is being eroded. The second is the geographic scope of the legislation. At the moment, if you are suspected of a crime, the police, security services and other agencies can request details from your mobile phone company about, for example, the time and date of calls you made or received and, using cell site analysis, where you were when the calls were made. True, everyone’s data is kept and there is the potential for abuse. But it has proved invaluable as an investigative tool in many serious cases of crime and terrorism.
So the question is not about greater intrusion into people’s privacy but extending the reach of existing legislation. If terrorists email each other and the communication is handled by servers based overseas, there is currently some doubt that an interception warrant would be successful, whereas if the servers were in Britain there would be no problem. The new legislation does not create more intrusive powers, but ensures that existing powers can be exercised when data is handled abroad. This is not about blanket surveillance, but targeted surveillance on specific suspected criminals.
The civil liberties lobby should be pressing for stronger safeguards regarding the use of the data, rather than protesting against the storage of it under any circumstances. That is why Liberal Democrats in government have, since a recent judgment of the European court of justice, been negotiating hard to build in greater protections. We have taken the opportunity that the judgment has given us to insist on a fundamental review of surveillance legislation to establish what the current threats to security are, and what a proportionate response to those threats might look like. To make sure this is done, no matter who forms the next government the new legislation will expire at the end of 2016.
Forty-nine MPs have voted against rushing the government’s emergency surveillance legislation through all its Commons stages in just one day.
A deal between the three major parties, however, secured the fast-track timetable by 436 votes to 49, despite accusations from one Labour MP that the move amounted to “democratic banditry resonant of a rogue state”.
The vote on the timetable motion for the data retention and investigatory powers bill, known as the Drip bill, came as it emerged that the home secretary was to accept Labour amendments strengthening its safeguards.
The government has accepted that the promised longer-term review of all surveillance legislation, known as Ripa, should be written into the Drip bill to put it on a statutory footing, and that there should six-monthly reviews of its operation by the interception commissioner.
The former Tory shadow home secretary David Davis told ministers that the rush to push through the Drip bill undermined parliament’s role.
• Details of the emergency surveillance legislation
• Miliband’s letter to Labour MPs explaining why Labour backs the bill
• Lunchtime summary, including highlights from the Cameron/Clegg press conference
Human Rights Watch has criticised the government for rushing this bill through parliament. This is from Izza Leghtas, a Human Rights Watch researcher.
Given what we know about the UK’s involvement in mass surveillance, it is outrageous that the government wants to rush through emergency legislation that allows the government to monitor people not suspected of any wrongdoing.
A proper debate about how to reform surveillance powers is long overdue and it has to happen now, not in 2016.
David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat deputy, Nick Clegg, have unveiled emergency surveillance legislation that will shore up government powers to require phone and internet companies to retain and hand over data to the security services.
The emergency legislation – due to be debated on Tuesday and complete all its parliamentary stages by Thursday next week – will also confirm that foreign-based companies should hand over data harvested in the UK, a move that implicitly accepts the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden may have disclosed surveillance activities that did not have international legal authority.
The government said it was forced to act after a European court of justice ruling on 8 April and because a growing number of foreign-based, predominantly American, phone companies were threatening to stop handing over details of UK customers’ data.
Internet service providers from around the world are lodging formal complaints against the UK government’s monitoring service, GCHQ, alleging that it uses “malicious software” to break into their networks.
The claims from seven organisations based in six countries – the UK, Netherlands, US, South Korea, Germany and Zimbabwe – will add to international pressure on the British government following Edward Snowden‘s revelations about mass surveillance of the internet by UK and US intelligence agencies.
The claims are being filed with the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), the court in London that assesses complaints about the agencies’ activities and misuse of surveillance by government organisations. Most of its hearings are held at least partially in secret.
The IPT is already considering a number of related submissions. Later this month it will investigate complaints by human rights groups about the way social media sites have been targeted by GCHQ.
The government has defended the security services, pointing out that online searches are often routed overseas and those deemed “external communications” can be monitored without the need for an individual warrant. Critics say that such a legal interpretation sidesteps the need for traditional intercept safeguards.
The latest claim is against both GCHQ, located near Cheltenham, and the Foreign Office. It is based on articles published earlier this year in the German magazine Der Spiegel. That report alleged that GCHQ had carried out an attack, codenamed Operation Socialist, on the Belgian telecoms group, Belgacom, targeting individual employees with “malware (malicious software)”.
One of the techniques was a “man in the middle” attack, which, according to the documents filed at the IPT, bypasses modern encryption software and “operates by interposing the attacker [GCHQ] between two computers that believe that they are securely communicating with each other. In fact, each is communicating with GCHQ, who collect the communications, as well as relaying them in the hope that the interference will be undetected.”
The complaint alleges that the attacks were a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and an interference with the privacy rights of the employees under the European convention of human rights.
The organisations targeted, the submission states, were all “responsible and professional internet service providers”. The claimants are: GreenNet Ltd, based in the UK, Riseup Networks in Seattle, Mango Email Service in Zimbabwe, Jinbonet in South Korea, Greenhost in the Netherlands, May First/People Link in New York and the Chaos Computer Club in Hamburg.
Speaking at a debate in University College London, Lady Neville-Jones, who has chaired Whitehall’s joint intelligence committee, backed calls for the law governing surveillance, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to be tightened up.
Neville-Jones, who served as security and counter-terrorism minister between 2010 and 2011, is normally a staunch defender of the way the security services operate.
Earlier this week an explanation of the legal basis on which GCHQ, the monitoring agency, intercepts emails as well as searches on Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, was published.
The government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, said emails sent overseas or received from abroad, as well as most online searches, which use foreign servers, are deemed to be “external communications” and can therefore be monitored without the need for a specific intercept warrant. Critics accused him of exploiting a loophole in the law.
El gobierno de Reino Unido reveló que su servicio de inteligencia, GCHQ, puede intervenir las cuentas de Google y Facebook de sus ciudadanos sin autorización legal porque dichas compañías están basadas en el exterior.
El jefe de inteligencia británico, Charles Farr, afirmó que esos servicios están clasificados como comunicaciones externas.
La política de fisgoneo fue revelada como parte de una lucha legal que viene librándose con el grupo activista Privacy Iternational (PI).
Anyone’s Google searches or use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be monitored by the security services because such “external communications” do not require individual intercept warrants, according to the government’s most senior security official.
Charles Farr, director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, has produced the first detailed justification of the UK’s mass surveillance policy – developing a legal interpretation that critics say sidesteps the need for traditional intercept safeguards.
His 48 page document, released on Tuesday, provoked calls for the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to be overhauled urgently and allegations that the government was exploiting loopholes in the legislation of which parliament was unaware.
The government defence was published in response to a case brought by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International and other civil rights groups before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which deals with complaints against the intelligence services. A full hearing will take place next month.
The allegation that mass online surveillance is illegal emerged in the wake of revelations from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden about the impact of the Tempora monitoring programme operated by the UK monitoring agency GCHQ and the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Under RIPA, traditional interception of communications within the UK requires an individual warrant. Farr argues that in a technologicallly-fast moving world, where the greatest threat to national security is from “militant Islamist terrorists” operating both abroad and in the UK, identifying individual targets initially is too difficult.
He says: “Any regime that … only permitted interception in relation to specific persons or premises, would not have allowed adequate levels of intelligence information to be obtained and would not have met the undoubted requirements of intelligence for the protection of national security.”
Farr’s statement, published on Tuesday by Privacy International and other human rights organisations, is the first time the government has commented on how it exploits the UK’s legal framework to operate its mass interception programme.
Under section 8(1) of RIPA, internal communications between British residents within the UK may only be monitored pursuant to a specific warrant. These specific warrants should only be granted where there is some reason to suspect the person in question of unlawful activity. “External communications”, however, may be monitored indiscriminately under a general warrant according to section 8(4).
Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: “Intelligence agencies cannot be considered accountable to parliament and to the public they serve when their actions are obfuscated through secret interpretations of byzantine laws.
The United Kingdom’s top spy agency is facing legal action following revelations published by The Intercept about its involvement in secret efforts to hack into computers on a massive scale.
Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, has been accused of acting unlawfully by helping to develop National Security Agency surveillance systems capable of covertly breaking into potentially millions of computers and networks across the world.
In a legal complaint filed on Tuesday, the London-based civil liberties group Privacy International alleges that the hacking techniques violated European human rights law and are not subject to sufficient safeguards against abuse. The complaint cites a series of details contained in a report published by The Intercept in March, which exposed how GCHQ was closely involved in the NSA’s efforts to rapidly expand its ability to deploy so-called “implants” to infiltrate computers.
GCHQ, the government’s monitoring agency, acted illegally by developing spy programs that remotely hijack computers’ cameras and microphones without the user’s consent, according to privacy campaigners.
A legal challenge lodged on Tuesday at the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) calls for the hacking techniques – alleged to be far more intrusive than interception of communications – to be outlawed. Mobile phones were also targeted, leaked documents reveal.
The claim has been submitted by Privacy International following revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden about the mass surveillance operations conducted by GCHQ and its US counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA).
The 21-page submission details a host of “malware” – software devised to take over or damage another person’s computer – with such esoteric names as Warrior Pride, Gumfish, Dreamy Smurf, Foggybottom and Captivatedaudience.
Details of the programs have been published by the Guardian and the online magazine The Intercept run by the journalist Glenn Greenwald. They are said to allow GCHQ to gain access to “the profile information supplied by a user in registering a device [such as] … his location, age, gender, marital status, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, and family”.
More intrusively, Privacy International alleges, the programs enable surveillance of any stored content, logging of keystrokes and “the covert and unauthorised photography or recording of the user and those around him”. It is, the claim maintains, the equivalent of “entering someone’s house, searching through his filing cabinets, diaries and correspondence, and planting devices to permit constant surveillance in future, and, if mobile devices are involved, obtaining historical information including every location he had visited in the past year”.
Such break-ins also leave devices vulnerable to attack by others “such as credit card fraudsters, thereby risking the user’s personal data more broadly”, Privacy International argues. “It is the modern equivalent of breaking in to a residence, and leaving the locks broken or damaged afterwards.”