By Tom Cheshire, Technology Correspondent
The first legal challenge against alleged GCHQ snooping on UK smartphones has been filed.
The challenge alleges that the Government Communications Headquarters listening post has infected “potentially millions” of computers and smartphones around the world with malicious software, which could be used to extract photos and text messages, switch on the phone’s microphone or camera, track locations and listen in to calls.
Privacy International, a UK-based charity, brought the case to demand “an end to the unlawful hacking being carried out by GCHQ which, in partnership with the NSA”.
The challenge says GCHQ infected smartphones
It argues these practices violate articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 8 outlines the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence, and the activists question whether GCHQ’s data collection is in accordance with the law.
Deputy director Eric King said: “Unrestrained, unregulated Government spying of this kind is the antithesis of the rule of law and Government must be held accountable for their actions.”
In March this year website The Intercept reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) planned to secretly infect millions of devices with software that would extract information and send it back to the NSA, and that GCHQ collaborated to develop these tools.
The Guardian newspaper also said that by May 2010, GCHQ had developed software for iPhone and Android devices called Warrior Pride, which allowed the remote activation of microphones and cameras on phones, as well as the retrieval of data stored on the phone.
In January, legal advice given to MPs by public law barrister Jemima Stratford QC said spy agencies could use “gaps in the current statutory framework to commit serious crimes with impunity” and that GCHQ surveillance could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr King added: “The hacking programmes being undertaken by GCHQ are the modern equivalent of the Government entering your house, rummaging through your filing cabinets, diaries, journals and correspondence, before planting bugs in every room you enter.”
GCHQ told Sky News it had no comment on Privacy International’s challenge.