The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has found in favour of the Foreign Office and GCHQ on all points of law in a case brought by Privacy International and a group of seven internet service providers.
The Tribunal’s ruling made clear that the legal regime under which GCHQ carries out Equipment Interference (EI), also known as Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) is, and has always been, compatible with human rights law.
The claim challenged ten aspects of GCHQ’s EI work, addressing in particular the compatibility of the legal framework with the European Convention on Human Rights. The IPT examined the legal regime both before and after the publication in February 2015 of the Equipment Interference Code of Practice.
Speaking after the judgment became public Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:
I welcome the IPT ruling and its judgment that a proper balance is being struck between the need to keep Britain safe and the protection of individuals’ privacy. The ability to exploit computer networks plays a crucial part in our ability to protect the British public.
Once again, the law and practice around our Security and Intelligence Agencies’ capabilities and procedures have been scrutinised by an independent body and been confirmed to be lawful and proportionate.
The draft Investigatory Powers Bill will further strengthen the safeguards for the Agencies’ use of these powers, including a new double-lock authorisation process. It will provide our Security and Intelligence agencies with the powers they need to deal with the serious threats our country faces, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements.