BY GLYN MOODY
Techdirt has been reporting on the disturbing rise in the use of malware by governments around the world to spy on citizens. One name that keeps cropping up in this context is the FinFisher suite of spyware products from the British company Gamma. Its code was discovered masquerading as a Malay-language version of Mozilla Firefox, and is now at the center of a complaint filed in the UK:
Privacy International today has made a criminal complaint to the National Cyber Crime Unit of the National Crime Agency, urging the immediate investigation of the unlawful surveillance of three Bahraini activists living in the UK by Bahraini authorities using the intrusive malware FinFisher supplied by British company Gamma.
Here’s why Privacy International is acting now:
While it’s long been known that Gamma has provided surveillance capabilities to Bahrain, amongst other countries, the extent of Gamma’s complicity in Bahrain’s unlawful surveillance of individuals located abroad has only recently been confirmed. Two months ago, a number of internal Gamma documents were published revealing that Gamma is both aware of, and actively facilitating, the Bahraini regime’s surveillance of targets located outside Bahrain through the provision of intrusion technology called FinFisher to the Bahraini authorities.
The analysis by Bahrain Watch clearly shows that, amongst the Gamma documents published online, those targeted by the Bahraini government with FinFisher technology were [the activists] Mohammed, Jaafar, and Saeed, along with prominent Bahraini opposition politicians, democracy activists and human rights lawyers.
Privacy International believes that this alleged surveillance of Bahraini activists while in the UK constitutes an unlawful interception of communications under the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 — the infamous RIPA — and further argues that Gamma is “liable as an accessory under the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861 and/or encouraged and assisted the offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007.” If this reasoning is accepted, it could create an important precedent, at least in the UK.