back to article GCHQ's 'NOSEY SMURF' spyware snoops dragged into secretive tribunal

Privacy International has launched a legal bid to stop GCHQ and British intelligence agents from "unlawfully" spying on Brits using malware. Its complaint [PDF] to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal is a formal challenge to snoops' use of malicious software and hacking to surveil people. The campaigning charity fears …


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  1. Sir Runcible Spoon


    if parliament is fully aware of *everything* that GCHQ is doing and has authorised it as lawful and proportionate I'm assuming that anything that comes to light we can lay at the politician's doorstep?

    Or do you think the politicians will just slopey shoulder the whole thing and blame an overactive exuberance on the part of GCHQ to catch those darned terrorists picking their nose in front of their webcams?

    Either way, none of the slimey bastards will see a court.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So..

      Oh crap, they've just seen me upvote your comment...

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: So..

        "Oh crap, they've just seen me upvote your comment..."

        Yes, but I was nude and masturbating while doing it, so they'll never watch the video.

        Yes, I really do need a coat. And some tissues, too. Thanks.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So..

      I think the flaw in your argument is the "anything that comes to light" bit. A secret tribunal can decide anything, do anything (or nothing) and tell you something totally different. Nothing will "come to light".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If a complaint is upheld..

    GCHQ probably has just enough dirt on the "Panel" to ensure everything is seen from their perspective ;)

    A/C + Tin foil hat, just in case!

  3. nematoad


    " ... ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners, and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee."

    None of which ever sees the light of day or if it does is kept very quiet.

    Paying lip-service to transparency and accountability is no substitute for the real thing of course, it is however good enough to keep these toothless watchdogs quiet.

    Note to GCHQ:

    Give it a rest, you are starting to sound like a broken record. A waste of your breath and our time and patience.

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Nosey smurf ? Foggybottom ? Gumfish ? Tracker Smurf ?

    Is this GCHQ or the Chuckle Brothers ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nosey smurf ? Foggybottom ? Gumfish ? Tracker Smurf ?

      Chuckles is probably on the "Panel"....

      1. frank ly

        Re: Nosey smurf ? Foggybottom ? Gumfish ? Tracker Smurf ?

        If Nosey Smurf crashes, GCHQ get a blue screen of deaf.

  5. Roger Stenning

    It'll be found to be legal if...

    ...someone actually asked for a warrant - which in this case does NOT need to be signed by a magistrate or judge, the Secretary of State (or an authorised 'senior official' under his express authority) may issue such warrants.

    See the Sections 5 & 6, Intelligence Services Act 1994 (1994 c. 13), "Authorisation of certain actions"

    In short, the tribunal is unlikely to find in favour of Privacy International.

    What, you were expecting a fairy tale ending for the small guy? Welcome to reality, feller.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: It'll be found to be legal if...

      If enough 'small guys' gave a shit then they could change 'reality'.

      Reality? Really? This isn't a fundamental law of physics* we're discussing here, it's the actions of a minority who happen to be able to hide behind bits of paper (and ultimately police, troops and guns).

      To suggest that there is nothing we 'the small guys' can do to change what the 'big guys' are doing is an admission that we are living in a dictatorship, and your response? - "Welcome to reality".

      Well I can't argue that you're wrong, but your whole attitude positively exudes apathy. If history has taught is anything it is to respect the Romans that no-one who ever fought for their freedom (and won) were apathetic.

      You might not be able to change the world, but you can start by changing yourself, and I would humbly suggest that you address your attitude, because at the moment you appear to represent exactly what politicians have wet dreams about.

      *Laws of physics are also open to debate, but they are good enough for government work**

      **oxymoron alert

      1. Tom 38

        Re: It'll be found to be legal if...

        Please, the UK is hardly a repressed populace held together at gun point and forced to toe the line - mainly things don't change because mainly people don't give a fuck.

        Conversely, it doesn't really matter how much you or I care, since that is irrelevant to the overall proportions. I can be miffed a little about it, or I can be raging about it, but the attitudes of society in general wouldn't change.

        no-one who ever fought for their freedom (and won) were apathetic.

        Definitely true, but it doesn't cover when 1% of the country really really really want to stop the 1% running the show, manage to do so, and become the new 1%. People don't just fight for freedom, they fight for control when they have none. The first control they want is "freedom", but "power" comes soon after.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: It'll be found to be legal if...

          "The first control they want is "freedom", but "power" comes soon after."

          Ok, the UK isn't quite a despotic regime yet, but secret courts and un-restricted surveillance for dubious purposes are all steps in one direction, and that direction doesn't equate to more control for the citizens of the UK; it certainly isn't democracy.

          The politicians treat the electorate like sheep, and they act like sheep.

          There has never been a time in history when so much of our daily lives is influenced (directly or indirectly) by the media, which doesn't dance to the tune of democracy. If the inexorable advance of technology leads to tools that can listen to what people are saying in their homes en-masse, then the use of that technology has to have the highest degree of oversight imaginable, otherwise the power hungry will have a stick that, should they choose to wield it openly, would make it difficult to create any kind of organised resistance against it.

          Some could argue that that is happening right now. Can you state that the media is truly independant and that government oversight of hidden agencies is adequate?

          The things that people were being call tin-hatters for only 10 years ago is now taken for granted by the general populace. That there is no outcry only re-inforces my belief that people have been effectively divided. Of course, it could also mean that people don't really care, but I often hear about people's negative reactions when they are actually confronted with details of just how far state surveillance has gone, and their response is invariably 'Well, what can we do?'

          I don't want to take control of the UK, and I don't support anyone else who does (apart from through the democratic process) - but that doesn't mean that I want some nameless, faceless un-accountable beauracrat to have ever increasing control over what I say and what I do.

          The evidence of self-censorship is all around us, people are getting 'offended' on other people's behalf because they don't want to be seen as prejudiced, or a sympathiser of some dodgy moral outlook. It's all top-show and means absolutely bollock-all.

          If a decent, hard-working sensible person tried to get into parliament - someone who spoke without weasle-words - how far do you think they would get? There are some out there, and I think they become dis-illusioned by the whole system pretty quickly.

          If people like that can't get the support they need from 'the people', and the 'people' can't recognise such a person over the bum-fluffery of the morally-bankrupt (yet skillfull) career politicians, then I suppose they deserve to be herded into their little mind-boxes and fed x-factor 24 hours a day.

          Personally I don't like to give in, but if there were a country I could go to to be free of this scourge, I would. Once upon a time that country would have been the UK. Who would say that now?

      2. Roo

        Re: It'll be found to be legal if... @ Sir Runcible Spoon

        "If enough 'small guys' gave a shit then they could change 'reality'."

        By Toutartis !

        I can not upvote that post enough.

        Well struck Sir !

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone explain to me...

    ...and maybe also to GCHQ how spying on 1,800,000 Yahoo webcam sessions, in a 6 month period, is "proportionate"?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Can someone explain to me...

      It is "proportionate" to the total number of !Yahoo! webcam sessions - in this case the constant of proportionality being 1.0

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can someone explain to me...

      But... but... but... al-Masri preferred video chat over other means of communication so it doesn't really matter whether it's proportionate or not, does it? Let's have Matt explain it to you:

  7. Arachnoid

    Yahoo webcams

    Didn't you know all the nefarious peeps use Yahoo for contacting each other as one time code pads,dead letter drops,restricted forums access and the use of gaming comms are all so old hat.

  8. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    "ensures that our activities are...

    ... ignored, overlooked, swept under the carpet or rubber stamped and given the nod without awkward questions being asked by anyone who actually might have sufficient power to do something about them..."


  9. Otto is a bear.

    So let me get this right

    A campaigning charity is afraid GCHQ might be doing something illegal, because it has the capability to do it.

    So how much time do you reckon GCHQ actually want to waste looking at ordinary peoples private data, and in fact what use it would actually be to them. I suspect you'll find that the democratic worlds security services have their hands full chasing terrorists and criminals, whom I suspect no one in their right mind wants to give free reign on the internet. I think you'll find that the likes of Facebook, Tesco, WalMart and Amazon know far more about each of us than any security service.

    I'd be interested to know how you think the security services should do their job, and just how open they should be, baring in mind that if you know how someone watches you, it's a whole lot easier to evade them.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: So let me get this right

      To suggest that the security services are not interested in the minutiae of everyday life is one thing, to suggest that they don't snoop on everyone because of that is disingenuous.

      1. It might not matter that 'Fred' is having a row with his wife about his growing dissatisfaction of the current ruling party, but it might be 'of interest' to know that 27% of the population is getting increasingly pissed off, especially when it was only 7% last year.

      2. Companies use the internet too, trade secrets, trade agreements, insider knowledge etc. - all useful stuff.

      The spooks have shown, repeatedly, to be not only 'interested' in looking at peoples' private data, but are actively pursuing that data.

      If would be prepared to bet every penny I am likely to earn for the rest of my life that more useful and useable data for catching terrorists has been gathered using the 'old fashioned' methods than scatter-snooping the entire population of the country. If all their snooping had been catching terrorists then they would surely say so considering all the heat they are getting.

    2. Cynic_999

      Re: So let me get this right

      You rather naively assume that GCHQ are interested in only terrorists and criminals, and that therefore no information of a private but entirely legal nature would be worth their time collecting or analysing. You entirely ignore the fact that throughout history those in power (and with power) have very frequently followed a far more selfish and often illegal agenda, which often involves doing things that are most definitely detrimental to the citizens they are supposed to be working to benefit. As just one rather obvious example, monitoring the private communications of people who run big businesses could give those monitoring the communications significant financial advantages both on a personal and a government level, to the detriment of ordinary shareholders and customers.

    3. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: So let me get this right

      "I think you'll find that the likes of Facebook, Tesco, WalMart and Amazon know far more about each of us than any security service."

      The difference is nobody's making you have a Tesco Clubcard (and indeed, I've never had a "loyalty" card).

  10. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Are your phones bills higher than you expected?

    If I activate the microphone on your phone, and send the data back over the internet, the carrier could charge you for sending the recording. I would be guilty of wire tapping and theft. I am sure GCHQ have covered the arses over wire tapping, but what about theft?

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Are your phones bills higher than you expected?

      You're assuming that the phone companies aren't complicit.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Secret Intelligence Services which aint Secret or Intelligent is the Problem .... and Opportunity

    Surely the more disturbing, and yet most encouraging thing about all of those facilities and abilities being so ready available to Great British Spookdom [if one can believe that all such capabilities are easily available against anybody and everything] is that executive systems administration of that which is discovered/uncovered by the powers that be privy to and armed with all information and disruptive intelligence, is so useless at changing the world for the better with it, and allowing idiots with access to QE funds proxy politically incorrect powers over them. Stupid is as stupid does.

    And the encouraging bit? ...... The opportunities/zeroday vulnerabilities which are available to those others whose information and intelligence is worthy of being phished and phormed/stolen and remodelled, or whose information and intelligence is escaping systems capture and use/abuse/misuse and capable of being highly disruptive and a Great Creative Game Changer. Some though will see their powers of command control disappear and create the spectre of terrorism to justify destructive change elements into their Great Game plans against others.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Secret Intelligence Services which aint Secret or Intelligent is the Problem .... and Opportunity

      Upvote...I think...

  12. Fibbles

    Secretive organization gets dragged before court held in secret...

    Nobody is ever going to find out what goes on inside of that tribunal. The accused and the panel of judges probably all know each other as well. Essentially, so long as they all spend the requisite amount of time locked away in this 'court room' and announce a verdict at the end they don't really have to do any of the tedious tribunal stuff. I'd put good money on the court room actually being a well stocked bar.

  13. Scoular

    The real problem is loss of trust in government

    Once upon a time most people in the 'democracies' had a basic level of trust in their governments, although less in their politicians.

    That trust has now been destroyed by credible evidence of systematic collection of data on everyone despite the fact that overwhelmingly most of us have never been a threat to good order and discipline.

    When the people do not trust their rulers trouble is brewing, the implied contract has been broken.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The real problem is loss of trust in government

      trust... I saw a poll about the levels of trust / respect in one of the EU countries (held end of 2013). Top 3:

      fireman, university professor, skilled labourer. And the bottom lot, aaaaall the way to to the bottom: a minister in a government, stock broker, local counciller and an MP.

      Quite peculiar that this should reflect the influence those professions held over our lives. Upside down.

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