International ISPs and hacker group take GCHQ to court over spying claims

ISPs from around the world have filed a lawsuit against the UK GCHQ

Internet service providers (ISPs) from around the world have filed legal action against the UK’s GCHQ spy base over allegations it tapped telecom cables and siphoned off data.

The complaint, filed with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), also sees the UK’s Privacy International involved, alongside ISPs from the UK, US, Netherlands, South Korea and Germany. The firms are: RiseUp (US), GreenNet (UK), Greenhost (Netherlands), Mango (Zimbabwe), Jinbonet (Korea), May First/People Link (US), and the Chaos Computer Club (Germany).

Bhatt Murphy Solicitors have been appointed by the group to lead the legal challenge. The filing calls for the IPT to rule that the activities undertaken by GCHQ are illegal and must stop, while all data gathered through these processes is destroyed.

“The use by GCHQ of internet and communications service providers’ infrastructure to spy on the providers’ users on such an enormous scale strikes at the heart of the relationship between those users and the provider itself,” the filing reads.

“The fact that the internet and communications service providers are essentially deputised by GCHQ to engage in heavily intrusive surveillance of their own customers threatens to damage or destroy the goodwill in that relationship.”

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, added his voice to the argument, claiming the spying activities by GCHQ “undermine” trust in the internet.

“It completely cripples our confidence in the internet economy and threatens the rights of all those who use it. These unlawful activities, run jointly by GHCQ and the NSA, must come to an end immediately,” he said.

In response to the case, the GCHQ issued V3 with its standard response that it does not comment on ongoing cases, but reiterated its stance that all its work is entirely legal. “The United Kingdom’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights,” it said.

The case is the third action taken against GCHQ since spying allegations first came to light after leaks from Edward Snowden in summer 2013. Similar challenges were filed in October 2013 and May of 2014.

So far, though, GCHQ has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the government, although the European Commission has warned that if there is any hint that GCHQ broke the law it will take action too.

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