Joining in the same fight that several other privacy groups are actively taking part in this year, Privacy International just announced they will be lodging a formal legal bid against the British government in order to prevent the GCHQ from using programs like NOSEY SMURF to infect innocent users’ computers with keylogging and site tracking malware.
A joint effort between GCHQ and the NSA, NOSEY could give anyone with the right code the ability to actively spy on the webcams, microphones, and front-facing cameras of a variety of devices. They could record video, take photos, and even do all of these things when a laptop or phone was supposedly “turned off”.
A panel of 10 judges are tasked with reviewing the appeal, and are normally responsible for providing the balances to the checks carried out by the GCHQ, MI5, MI6, all the way down to beat police operating at the local level.
Privacy International claims many of the efforts undertaken by the GCHQ were tantamount to breaking into someone’s house, searching through their filing cabinets and diary, and then leaving devices behind designed to continue surveillance long after the spies in charge of the operation had gone. Not only that, but by creating dodgy versions of popular apps like Angry Birds and Draw Something to hide on a user’s device, the surveillance teams were risking the security of app stores and mobile devices targeted for botnets even further than they already are by default.
When quizzed about the case, Privacy International defended the rights of the average Internet user, claiming the GCHQ has far overstepped their bounds for the right and wrong ways to go about surveilling a society in search of terrorist activity.
“These forms of invasive surveillance allow intelligence agencies access to the most personal and sensitive information about an individual’s life – their location, age, gender, marital status, finances, health information, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, family relationships, private communications, and potentially, their most intimate thoughts.”
The group claims these programs, and others initiated and maintained by the GCHQ, violate Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was originally put in place to protect the average citizen’s basic right to privacy. Article 10 was also mentioned, which is a statute that ensures anyone in the Union has the right of freedom of expression, which while not exactly limited by the efforts of the British spy agency, are under threat when programs like NOSEY SMURF are openly allowed to operate without impunity or any sort of active regulation to be found.
The GCHQ has been pretty quiet over the past few months, but had this to say when questioned about their clandestine activities taking place in covert fashion on thousands of separate machines from around the EU.
“All of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework that ensures that our activities are authorized, 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.”