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Privacy International wins victory over HMRC in spy technology sales case

Refusing to comment is not responsive government, said the court
Tue May 13 2014, 09:45
Privacy international celebrates a win in court

CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP Privacy International has reported that a high court decision ruled in its favour.

The outfit has been trying to extract information from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about imports of Finfisher, a surveillance technology that is exported by Gamma International.

Privacy International has been after access to information about Finfisher for some time, and took its case to court in April 2013. It wants HMRC to make public its records on exports of the software product, but HMRC refused.

Finfisher is software that is covertly installed on an end-user's hardware, a mobile phone or computer. It is then used to steal information, record video and communications and take over the machine. Privacy International is not keen on it and has not been since November 2012.

"HMRC's refusal to provide information to the pro-democracy activists who have been targeted is shameful," said Privacy International last year. "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 [and] Customs to come clean."

The court agreed with Privacy International yesterday (PDF), and Privacy International reported its victory. It said that the court's decision that HMRC's silence is unlawful is a "significant turning point" in its quest.

"For two years we have been asking [the] Government to come clean on what they are doing when it comes to the illegal export of Finfisher and to stand up for victims targeted by surveillance technology made on British soil," said Privacy International deputy director Eric King.

"Today's ruling is an important victory, and a step in the right direction to holding Gamma International, and the rest of this secretive industry, to account." µ


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