Feeds

Privacy bods win court battle: UK HMRC must 'reconsider' silence over FinSpy spyware probe

Is taxman looking into snoop-soft sales? Maybe we'll find out

The essential guide to IT transformation

A campaign group has successfully applied for a judicial review after Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs' refused to disclose details of any investigation into a firm accused of selling spyware to oppressive regimes.

The High Court in London has now ruled (PDF) that HMRC has to rethink its decision and address Privacy International's request for information.

Privacy International started its battle two years ago after the taxman refused to allow it to see records relating to Gamma International, which touts surveillance-ware FinFisher, also known as FinSpy.

The campaign body first wrote to HMRC in 2012, enclosing a dossier of allegations that Finfisher was used to snoop on innocent activists in Bahrain, Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkmenistan. The privacy campaigners also alleged that Gamma was exporting the controlled spyware without the correct licence.

The group demanded to see details of any investigation into Gamma – which has an office in Andover, England – as well as minutes of any meeting between its Brit-based wing and the UK government.

However, HMRC argued it had no power to provide information about any investigations, or even about the existence of any such investigations, and that it was "exempt from disclosure because it was provided to the Department in confidence and that release would constitute a breach of confidence actionable in court."

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: "Today’s ruling is an important victory.”

Documents released by WikiLeaks (PDF) allege the software can monitor Skype communications, snoop on targets using a computer's webcam and silently siphon files from a hard drive to spymasters. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?