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Crackdown on sale of UK spyware over fears of misuse by repressive regimes

The Observer
Publication date: 
Jamie Doward
Original story link: 

The campaign group Privacy International threatened to seek a judicial review of the decision by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills not to bar the export of the software to Egypt. The action could have drawn attention to the wider sale of such technology by UK companies.

However, in a letter to Bhatt Murphy, Privacy International's lawyers, the Treasury Solicitor's Department, the government's legal adviser, said an assessment of the software had been carried out and Gamma had been advised "that the system does require a licence to export to all destinations outside the EU".

The letter said that "this is because it is designed to use controlled cryptography … the secretary of state also understands that other products in the FinFisher portfolio could be controlled for export in the same way".

The letter suggested the technology would not be approved for sale to Iran and Syria.

Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said: "We welcome the government's decision to start controlling exports of FinFisher, and it is certainly a step in the right direction.

"However, without swift further action to bring other British companies under the export licensing regime, it's just a sticking plaster on a bullet wound. There are a number of pressing questions about the circumstances surrounding the government's volte-face that remain unanswered."