The British government is being threatened with legal action over its failure to impose export restrictions on internet surveillance technology.
Lawyers acting for campaign group Privacy International (PI) have written to Vince Cable, the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills demanding that he uses his powers under the Export Control Act 2002 (ECA) to stop British firms selling surveillance technology to repressive regimes.
If Cable does not reply with 21 days, PI said it will file for a judicial review and could even seek an injunction.
“British companies have been peddling their wares to repressive regimes for years now,” said Eric King, head of research at PI.
“The government must stop exports of British surveillance technologies to despotic regimes before more harm is done.”
PI claimed that UK firms had sold computer monitoring tools to the now-fallen Mubarak regime in Egypt, as well as to the authorities in Turkmenistan – labelled one of the “world's most repressive regimes” by Human Rights Watch.
PI has made several requests to Cable to use his powers to put export restrictions on web snooping kit.
The ECA allows the government to restrict the export of goods and services that are capable of facilitating internal repression or breaching human rights.
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More than 800,000 home users could be affected