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UK Government Faces Lawsuit Over Surveillance Exports

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the was-that-wrong? dept.

Government 28

judgecorp writes "The UK government has been threatened with legal action, over its failure to block exports of espionage technology to oppressive regimes. British firms have sold covert surveillance equipment to the former Egyptian regime, as well as to Iran and Syria in recent months, and pressure group Privacy International has sent a letter asking for a change of policy and an update of export restrictions — backed by a threat that it will take the government to court if there is no response."

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28 comments

Faget Surveillance (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40741221)

Spying on people pennises.

Fagets like surveillance. Let them take sneaky dick pics of pennises and dongs because their fagets and like to touch peepees and masturbate while looking at dong pics.

Fagets haha.

Cry havoc and let slip the strongly worded letters (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40741259)

First Assad gets one from the UN, and now the UK government will get one from a non-profit group! These horrible actions don't go without consequences!

Re:Cry havoc and let slip the strongly worded lett (3, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#40741571)

Oh don't worry. They go after file sharers more harshly than they do after someone murdering a few thousand people. Carry on.

take the government to court (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#40741353)

Yeah? Whose court? Most governments enjoy sovereign immunity.

Re:take the government to court (4, Informative)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#40741635)

Yeah? Whose court? Most governments enjoy sovereign immunity.

Well, not exactly in the UK [wikipedia.org] . Perhaps the threatened case would involve a writ of mandamus against the relevant ministers.

Re:take the government to court (3, Interesting)

Grumbleduke (789126) | about 2 years ago | (#40744551)

Put simply, the UK Government doesn't have sovereign immunity because it isn't actually sovereign. Under the UK constitution, it is Parliament that is sovereign (and so no act of Parliament can be questioned in another court - in theory), the government is bound by all sorts of things, usually via a judicial review [wikipedia.org] or under Human Rights/EU law issues. If the Government breaks the law, it can sometimes be done for it.

Actually, the monarch also has various immunities - I guess there are advantages to having a non-political/hereditary head of state; you're less likely to want to bring a case against them for screwing up stuff...

Re:take the government to court (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40744969)

The UK has no formal, written-down, single constitution. The UK constitution therefore says whatever the UK's government decides it says. Much like the US government on which it is based. Unlike the UK, however, the US has a single-document constitution, written-down for all to see and read, and for the government to ignore in their own personal and professional (if you can call it that) conduct, and for courts to interpret and misinterpret however it suits whomever is secretly paying them off, or most likely to effect laws they'd like to see, either to play with, or to bend to their will.

As for suing them, I wonder what court the UK will bow to... my guess is NONE, and the official response from #10 Downing will be "If it isn't too much trouble, we would like to suggest you Suck it, you whiny wankers!"

Re:take the government to court (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40745003)

Oops... backwards. Meant to say "which is based upon it". :)

Re:take the government to court (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40746433)

The UK government regularly loses in our courts, despite your assertion.

Re:take the government to court (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40746637)

I think you will find that the UK constitution says whatever the court says it does in most cases, that is, after all, where the application of the law is determined.

UK is... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40741387)

U$A bitch...

Good! (2)

Fatch Racall (2330110) | about 2 years ago | (#40741415)

This is how to bring third world countries into the first world. Let their governments spy on their people! That's how we do it in the 'western' world, after all!

Only exported cameras are bad (1, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about 2 years ago | (#40741599)

I visited London once a couple of years ago and there was a security camera every few yards on the streets. So why are they all upset about exporting the things? Aren't the cameras all made in China anyway?

Re:Only exported cameras are bad (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40742073)

Sure you did. Had a nice cup of tea with the Queen too, would be my guess.

Re:Only exported cameras are bad (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#40742343)

Note the lawsuit is about exporting to oppressive regimes, not importing into one.

Re:Only exported cameras are bad (1)

Grumbleduke (789126) | about 2 years ago | (#40744609)

A lot of those cameras aren't actually owned by the government, and most of them cover public spaces. There's a general idea that what you do in public is kind of public (but isn't strictly true, legally). What these companies are selling is monitoring and spying tech; stuff to monitor Internet access, break through encryption, profile and track people... all that sort of stuff.

Actually, just the sort of thing the UK government is planning to implement in its Comms Data Bill. I guess now that the market for this sort of tech in dictatorships is drying up (for practical and PR reasons), now they've been lobbying their own governments.

Re:Only exported cameras are bad (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#40761827)

What a lot of people miss is that many cameras they see are also just ANPR cameras which don't even store images, they simply read number plates and if a number plate is on the no insurance list or whatever an alert is sent out.

Similarly some people believe speed cameras are constantly filming or can constantly film, and stream back to some HQ, the reality is many of them don't even send back still, and they all only take still shots if you are actually speeding.

It's like with RIPA, where people still repeatedly parrot the idea that if a police officer asks you for an encryption key and you say no, then you can automatically get 5 years in jail. This simply isn't true as the law explicitly requires that the police have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you know the key, and the only time they've been able to do that is when people have been dumb enough to admit they know the key but aren't going to hand it over. If you say "I don't know the key" and stick to that story there's still really fuck all they can do, even with RIPA. The fact is that most people who do know the key simply crack under police questioning though "If we manage to prove you do have the key you'll get 5 years in jail, but if you just admit you know it we'll make sure it only has a minimal impact on your sentence" is usually enough to scare most people into breaking and admitting guilt on this sort of issue, but it isn't going to work on a smart criminal who knows their rights and knows the law.

This isn't to say I support all this still, but it's not the surveillance society police state many make out and certainly for the vast majority of even publicly owned cameras, they're certainly not watching you.

I agree also that this is no reason to be complacent either. Like you I'm still rather concerned by consecutive governments continuing to try and monitor more and more.

Re:Only exported cameras are bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40744817)

After the IRA bombing in the 80's the cameras went up then. when they caught the IRA Manchester bombers through the cameras, they was excepted by the public, Now just stop and think how long it took to catch the London under ground and bus bombers, they was traced right to their front doors, the bombers was rounded up, and locked up with in two weeks

America is now leading the pack, with face recognition software and putting a name to the face, mind you they have always done that, though the drivers license and id cards, Look at the number of cameras that are being erected here in the states, Not only that everything you do on the net is being recorded and saved under the guise of security. We are all being spy-ed on world wide ever minute of every day. It's getting that way that governments security knows what we are doing before we do,

Re:Only exported cameras are bad (1)

Zaelath (2588189) | about 2 years ago | (#40760659)

"they was excepted by the public"
should be
"they was accepted by the public"

The rest of your colourful scouser accent is fine, but excepted has a very different meaning to accepted ;p

"I can't disasterbate to this!" (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40741787)

Oh, I see what ypu did there.

Which, of course, is the whole problem when governmemt does it. Or when government forbids the people from doing it to governmemt.

Free Market! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40741801)

Small Government!

Yes Minister (1)

countach (534280) | about 2 years ago | (#40743853)

There was a whole episode of Yes Minister on this arms export topic. I'm sure what happened in that (hilarious) episode, is spot on.

Re:Yes Minister (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 2 years ago | (#40749717)

Sir Humphrey wrote an extremely vague letter for the Minister that, whilst saying there was a problem they might want to look at, said it in such a way that it could easily be misinterpreted as not being something the Prime Minister need concern them self with, thus covering both the Minster's and the Prime Minister's arses, should it ever come out in public.

who is at fault? (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 2 years ago | (#40744993)

British firms have sold covert surveillance equipment to the former Egyptian regime, as well as to Iran and Syria in recent months...

Perhaps it's just me but shouldn't said British firms be the ones to be punished?

Re:who is at fault? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40746869)

not if they complied with export controls by applying for an export licence when the sale was being set up and it was then agreed by the government. By doing that htye can justifiably say "we were not sure if okay so we applied to the powers that be for the green light and were given it, therefore the responsibility is theirs"

http://www.bis.gov.uk/exportcontrol/

Re:who is at fault? (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 2 years ago | (#40749847)

I suspect the firms fully adhered to the export regulations and obtained the permits required.

In fact having just skimmed over TFA, it seems Privacy International are mostly trying to point out that the export control list needs updating (at least in their opinion). Egypt most likely did not appear on the control list, so the firms were fully entitled to sell to them.

What Grounds? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 2 years ago | (#40745419)

What law had been broken? They never quote any legal reason to file a suit except that they do not like it.

No Problemo (1)

Cayh89 (2656829) | about 2 years ago | (#40747015)

the law wasn't broken the sales were legal. Privacy International wishes to get a judicial review and take out an injunction on the uk not for selling the equipment but because they dont like the countries or governments that they have been sold too.
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