News Column

Internet service providers take British spy agency to court

July 2, 2014

London (Alliance News) - Internet service providers from around the world have filed a legal complaint against the British intelligence agency GCHQ to prevent it from exploiting their networks to spy on people, they said in a statement Wednesday.

The advocacy group Privacy International teamed up with six internet service and communications providers from Britain, the US, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe and South Korea as well as a German hacker association to file the complaint, the first of its kind faced by GCHQ.

It followed allegations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden that spy agencies in the US and Britain used the internet and telecommunications networks to spy on millions of people.

"Snowden's revelations have exposed GCHQ's view that independent operators like GreenNet are legitimate targets for internet surveillance, so we could be unknowingly used to collect data on our users," said Cedric Knight, spokesman for Britain-based GreenNet.

"We say this is unlawful and utterly unacceptable in a democracy," he said.

The claimants were not named in the government documents leaked by Snowden, but they said the type of surveillance being carried out meant they were "at threat" of being targeted.

The claim was lodged at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in London, which investigates complaints against British intelligence agencies.

It is based on a series of reports published in German magazine Der Spiegel and The Intercept website last year, in which it was reported that GCHQ had targeted the Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom.

GCHQ also targeted three German internet exchange points to spy on internet traffic, the articles said.

The alleged attacks were "illegal" and "destructive" and "damage the trust in security and privacy that makes the internet such a crucial tool of communication and empowerment," Privacy International said.

The group has already lodged two related cases, the first against the British government over its mass surveillance programmes and the second against GCHQ's alleged hacking of computers and mobile phones.

The internet service providers involved in Wednesday's complaint are Riseup (US), GreenNet (Britain), Greenhost (Netherlands), Mango (Zimbabwe), Jinbonet (South Korea), May First/People Link (US), and the Chaos Computer Club (Germany).

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Source: Alliance News

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