back to article Thou shalt not hack indiscriminately, High Court of England tells Britain's spy agencies

A landmark High Court ruling has struck down Britain's ability to hack millions of people at a time through so-called "general warrants" in what privacy campaigners are hailing as a major victory. The ruling, obtained by Privacy International, means that some bulk equipment interference (aka hacking) warrants are no longer …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the words of an enactment must be unambiguous before the court may interpret Parliament as intending to override rights"

    Right now somebody in the HO is digging out the next version of an Act, ready and filed for just such an occasion, to go before Parliament containing just such words. They can do that now because the grown-up supervision has gone. That's why they wanted to take back control.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      @Doctor Syntax

      Grown up supervision? Wasnt Germany in the EU when they were done for collaborating with the NSA? The key issue being Merkels phone being tapped. The same grown ups who have decided the project is worth more than vaccinating people?

      I dont particularly trust our gov to stop spying generally but thinking the EU overlords are any better or 'grown up' is blindness and naivety.

      1. Graham 32

        Re: @Doctor Syntax

        If they were "done for" it, that proves it's a system that works. Of course it would be nicer if there were no wrongdoing, but at least they are being caught (some of the time.)

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @Doctor Syntax

          @Graham 32

          "If they were "done for" it, that proves it's a system that works."

          And as I said the reason was Merkels phone being tapped. If it wasnt for them discovering that there was collaboration to hack.

      2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: @Doctor Syntax

        Odd that you immediately assume he means the EU, rather than (say) the moderate Conservatives (who were all ejected from the party), or indeed something more general: actual Parliamentary oversight, rather than an 80-seat majority (delivered on the back of promises which are starting to fall through spectacularly) with which to push just about anything through.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          The words "take back control" clearly indicate Brexit to me, and that means the EU is concerned.

          I have read those words enough times in the past two years to not be surprised by that assumption.

        2. Brian Morrison

          Re: @Doctor Syntax

          Whatever is done it must be better that the path to challenging these sort of edicts is shorter when the EU and the ECJ are no longer concerned.

          I accept that our parliament *could* choose to not scrutinise the legislation very well, but then that was essentially impossible in the case of the EU Acquis which means we now need to do what mature democracies do which is to hold our representatives and our government to account. Yes it's a pain, but you never get anything by letting the people who want to be in charge do it for you. You have to have that Mr BigUglyBloke standing behind them armed with something large and bludgeon-like.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: @Doctor Syntax

            "Whatever is done it must be better that the path to challenging these sort of edicts is shorter when the EU and the ECJ are no longer concerned."

            You're probably right. Without supra-national jurisdiction the challenge would be thrown out PDQ.

            We have a govt. that's chafed at having to obey international law. They've got rid of as much of that as they can. They've also chafed at UK law and judicial review and have shown indications of wanting to get rid of that.

            Did you vote to "take back control?" What you weren't told is that you weren't taking back control. It was the govt and it's you they propose to control.

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Pint

    Beers all round for the Privacy International people for trying to keep those in power from abusing their positions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Beers all round for the Privacy International

      I admire - to a degree - the sneaky way you are pretending to be supportive, whilst all the while attempting to get them so drunk their performance will suffer ;-)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So presumably they will just carry on as before anyway

    Since they are legally allowed to carry out illegal acts.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: So presumably they will just carry on as before anyway

      I do understand the need to occasionally do something illegal when, overall, it is of benefit to society.

      The hard part is keeping them** honest, ie not acting in their own interests or the interests of whoever is powerful today. Judicial oversight can help but the judiciary can be corrupt or naive - we have seen that many times.

      What we need is for all to be revealed when a particular investigation/... is done and/or after 20 years or something. It may help to keep some of them** honest - knowing that their acts will be exposed to sunlight, it will also help to phrase future legislation if bounds have been overstepped.

      ** Whatever "them" means in various contexts.

  4. Peter in Seattle

    The great thing about British courts ...

    ... is that in the absence of a proper written constitution, they are free to just make stuff up, and sometimes in the right direction. On the other hand, American courts just make stuff up, and usually in the wrong direction (at least recently), notwithstanding a proper written constitution.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The great thing about British courts ...

      The job of a court is to interpret generally written law for the circumstances of the case. Where the circumstances aren't those envisaged by the legislators - which is the sort of case that comes before this level of court - then their rulings are guidance as to how other courts should act in similar cases. In general they themselves are guided by previous rulings and by established principles. It's not exactly making stuff up and it's always open to govt. to come along with updated legislation. The sort of clash which could be in the offing arises when the judiciary think the legislators have stepped outside the existing principles. I don't think that happens often but I think we're in danger of seeing it in the UK.

      1. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: The great thing about British courts ...

        IOW, the courts interpret the law, parliment makes it.

        Precedent is great, it fixes all the grey areas,

        if i higher court have made a decison like this use it to guide this decision, the problem comes when precident is wrong, and you need to persue it to the top to change it.....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thou shalt not hack indiscriminately

    or else? :(

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Thou shalt not hack indiscriminately

      or else? :(

      Or else you're a very naughty boy!

      1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
        Devil

        Re: Thou shalt not hack indiscriminately

        And you may even be spanked for it!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Thou shalt not hack indiscriminately

          no, but seriously, what, if anything, can courts do about it? Have they actually meted out any punishments, EVER?

  6. Franco Silver badge

    Thou shalt not hack indiscriminately is gone, now replaced with Thou shalt not get caught hacking indiscriminately.

    Given how many laws in this country are purported to be for one purpose but catch people doing something entirely unrelated, my cynicism levels remain high. I have nothing to fear of course, assuming I have nothing to hide.....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does any of this actually matter.........

    The snoops in Cheltenham are TOTALLY INCOMPETENT.......even as they are used to trawling for anything they can read!!!

    *

    If you think this is over the top......just think how many times AFTER AN OUTRAGE, the authorities report that the perps "WERE ALREADY KNOWN TO THE AUTHORITIES".

    *

    So.......restricting what they can trawl......asking them "to be specific"......rejecting demands for so-called "backdoors"........doesn't change the fundamental fact.......contrary to the government's often stated position....the security services ARE NOT KEEPING US SAFE.

    * ALL THIS TRAWLING is fundamentally anti-democratic.....and before you ask, I don't have any useful suggestions!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does any of this actually matter.........

      Your keyboard appears to be broken. CapsLock issue?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Does any of this actually matter.........

        @AC

        Your brain appears to be unable to recognise EMPHASIS. Seek help immediately!!

        1. AnonEMusk Noel

          Re: Does any of this actually matter.........

          IMMEDIATELY!*

          1. phuzz Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: Does any of this actually matter.........

            (shhh! no one tell them about html tags!)

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Does any of this actually matter.........

      The snoops in Cheltenham are TOTALLY INCOMPETENT.......even as they are used to trawling for anything they can read!!!

      *

      If you think this is over the top......just think how many times AFTER AN OUTRAGE, the authorities report that the perps "WERE ALREADY KNOWN TO THE AUTHORITIES". .... Anonymous Coward

      TOTALLY INCOMPETENT may be a tad too harsh, AC, being as it suggests there be virtually practically no hope available to them, whenever such is certainly never true. However, HIGHLY INCOMPETENT is something they can honestly deserve to wear whenever any who should be known to them as persons of particular and peculiar interest to authorities, and who may even have formerly freely introduced themselves to relevant authorities, are not subsequently engaged in ongoing constructive revealing dialogue.

      The real and present danger then is not so much a relatively clean skinned renegade going rogue and acting irresponsibly and malevolently, although that surely is an easy, couldn't care less option, but rather more the asset going strangely dark to authorities at home and highly communicative elsewhere with other authorities which cab be easily mistaken or adjudged as either the competition or opposition ..... which would be national scandal and almighty shame that the snoops in the likes of a Cheltenham would have to rightly bear.

      :-) Say hello to Cheltenham, El Regers, for surely they are certain to be browsing and trawling for the otherworldly wise nuggets of info and intel freely shared for more general global utilisation and implementation and systems application by more than just the hosts of heroes biding their time in the convivial spaces here on El Reg ‽ .

      However, if they aren't to any meaningful extent, then I be totally wrong in my initial prime assertion, and that opens up a whole new vista with myriad worlds of remote executive administrative pain and colossal alternative financial market gain to game without them having any leverage at the helm. ......... which would be another almighty national scandal and even greater shame.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Does any of this actually matter.........

      GCHQ just collect the information, it's up to The Security Service (aka MI5) or the Police to do something with that information. They're the ones you should be aiming your rant at.

      Although I presume you have a cast iron method for them to pick out the one idiot who is actually violent, out of the hundreds of others who say the exact same thing but never do anything about it...

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Every cloud has a silver lining

    That High Court ruling against Secret Intelligence and Security Services is great news for renegade rogue, freelancer private and pirate contractors/plausibly deniable proxy agents/non-state state actors.

  9. StrangerHereMyself

    But will they listen?

    But will the UK intelligence agencies abide by the court's instructions or will they merely work around them?

    I personally believe intelligence agencies have gone off the track, often side-stepping the law with nefarious constructions. For example where the Brits spy on Americans and the Americans on Brits and exchanging info they couldn't possibly accrue themselves since it would be unlawful for them to do so.

  10. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

    Erm

    "Boris Johnson's Conservative government started a formal review last year aimed at reducing the power of judicial reviews to change the law. ®"

    But they're not changing the law are they? They're upholding the law and rapping the government over the knuckles when they break it, or have I misunderstood something?

    1. IWVC
      Thumb Up

      Re: Erm

      I was just about to say the same thing

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course, a part of the antidote to hackers in Cheltenham......

    .....is private ciphers, like the example below. Is it part of an anti-democratic plot? Is it a recipe for black forest gateaux? Is it a pornographic image? The snoops in Cheltenham will no doubt read El Reg and some insider (lotaresco?) will provide some insight!!!!

    *

    0lwTSfw3qPoF6Fw3QPOZqz0369yzoRKbS9ilWXuJ

    aNwHUlC9WnMrYfkpAj6LgLY1WfQDsvONiDinsnGv

    q347AvGRorsDaZQ3if6Z8Lk38rIHKbW7u9QzQhW7

    89adorWvCngtaPwDkPan47ANybqtWXyhWjIzMfSR

    KnANuXSfSlmTkzOtKdUt4Hg90zqHY3Ohq5KfOxA9

    YzgTUzMPKNKX05yXGTCtuHor0TOD87c92tulEBSV

    6puLYHWjQbK5MB8z4beDgH4PspYtQvMzuBWF8Vmf

    qRwP0PCT212hE3wrE5gj8DwxcJInyVSb2Hs34hWz

    m1wdWhUZaFaxgrMNw9olsP2xIvcDslG1avejKlUN

    yROnmfmrArKtmFsNW74t2bQroNaTcZUTipI7ELuD

    O36bUPi7yhSVYXYBGryRsx0Lgb8JahsHYZYvqDu1

    W1YJUBWTmNUFmDQdy1cd8TMTSb65Ebob01oDefEZ

    Ql4f2LkhUXwxEZmDQpYnajSRCxwjcJwr8xAzMfYd

    wNQfwBqrElwR2LULQjutirGdSvmvariBUpO9a1KV

    w7wtOFwtS5inA72JKTiH8nqJwNeh65sPAdQP8nwz

    Udk9ULKzI7IVIZw1EZcPC3chiJm1eJC36h0BsX8T

    e1ut4ZubWJ8RAJkhGJQpe1KbYpy9IzON6RyhGXyJ

    IVKrgbgnWhYBaBy52R890hsJw5YZaFCL0VWLcDoF

    g9Y3KvqrYVed0Xwzc5OtAjqrqLqxwPuzaPAByvgJ

    6fqZq1gtYz4van2RkleNSbgLIpQdGLMfyTGzG1IP

    oxQvol6t0pETsdo9Ede5ePiT8Z4Xy5UvUf6DgdoD

    s1WhSLinyVAL4tUj2TMbwjClazE9QdENYZ0N2f8V

    UzE92xmb69G789STcjcNgrMdUf4tw9G7aDYPGpsV

    MrqV6JGfsJ8HwfynYzyR4lQb

    *

    P.S. It's a private cipher.......so REALLY easy to crack! Private ciphers are so "weak", so someone can let us know what it contains.

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