Rights group sues Britain over spy software allegedly sold to repressive regimes


Dirk Engling, of Chaos Computer Club, shows the control software for the Trojan spyware allegedly made by the German authorities (R) monitoring the traffic on a remote computer (L). The club cracked the spying software that could allow German authorities to peer through webcams. The news has sparked outrage among politicians and media commentators.


Odd Andersen

Privacy International on Tuesday filed suit against Britain for allegedly allowing the sale of surveillance technology used by governments accused of persecuting their own people in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, and elsewhere.

Privacy International's case against Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was filed in London's High Court on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

The rights organization is accusing the government of effectively enabling governments to infringe on the fundamental rights of their citizens by providing them with FinFisher spy software produced by the UK-based Gamma International, said AP. Such exports, the group says, are illegal under British law.

FinFisher software has been sold to a total of 25 nations, seemingly irrespective of their rights records, according to Privacy International

Research director Eric King issued the following statement on the case: 

"In the wrong hands, today’s surveillance technologies can have devastating effects, and the public, especially victims targeted by this surveillance, have a right to know what the UK government is doing about it. HMRC's refusal to provide information to the pro-democracy activists who have been targeted is shameful. In order for the public to have full confidence and faith that these issues will be addressed, we're asking the court to force HM Revenue & Customs to come clean."

AP said Britain's export monitor HMRC refused to comment on the case due to legal complications.