A new lawsuit takes aim at British spies’ alleged hacking of phones, Web cams and PCs

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Privacy International, an international nonprofit is suing the British counterpart to the National Security Agency in what the group says is the country's first-ever legal challenge to device-hacking by intelligence services.

The watchdog says that while former NSA contractor Edward Snowden drew a great deal of attention to the Government Communications Headquarters' (GCHQ) attempts to eavesdrop on people's communications, the spy agency's efforts to break into electronic devices is far more pernicious.

In a 21-page complaint filed to a British special court and obtained by The Washington Post, Privacy International has accused GCHQ of installing malware on unsuspecting targets' mobile phones, computers and Web cams that can capture keystrokes, secretly activate microphones and obtain sensitive information such as usernames and passwords and even the content of communications, such as text messages and e-mails stored on a device.

"If the interception of communications is the modern equivalent of wiretapping," according to the complaint, "then the activity at issue in this complaint is the modern equivalent of entering someone’s house, searching through his filing cabinets, diaries and correspondence, and planting devices to permit constant surveillance in future, and, if mobile devices are involved, obtaining historical information including every location he visited in the past year."

The filing invokes the European Convention on Human Rights. If a private citizen were to try doing what GCHQ does routinely, Privacy International alleges, it would run afoul of British cybercrime law.

A new lawsuit takes aim at British spies’ alleged hacking of phones, Web cams and PCs Privacy Group Challenges Surveillance Practices in Britain (New York Times)