UK government amends hacking laws to give intelligence service immunity

The British government has passed legislation amending the Computer Misuse Act to prevent GCHQ, the police and intelligence services from prosecution over any hacking into mobile phones and computers, reports Ars Technica.

The change to the law was a ‘little noticed addition’ to the Serious Crime Bill, two months ago, The Independent reports. Privacy International, which is currently embroiled in action against the UK government over alleged illegal spying (as reported by We Live Security here), claims that this was a deliberate move to ensure the change passed without scrutiny.

“It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate,” the privacy charity said in a statement.

Although the Serious Crime Bill was first filed on June 6 2014, it was only passed into law on March 3 this year, becoming effective as of May 3.

However, a UK Home Office spokesperson told International Business Times that the Serious Crime Act 2014 was “simply clarifying” how the Computer Misuse Act – which was first passed in 1990 – can be used to investigate cybercrime today. It was not intended to “extend those powers, confer additional powers, or create new defenses for the police, security and intelligence services,” they said.

“There have been no changes made to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 by the Serious Crime Act 2015 that increase or expand the ability of the intelligence agencies to carry out lawful cybercrime investigation. It would be inappropriate to comment further while proceedings are ongoing,” they added.

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