Rights group Privacy International (PI) has announced a court decision in its favour over its push for more information on the use of Gamma's FinFisher backdoor snooping and surveillance software.
Privacy International has sought information on the company, its equipment and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigations into it since late 2012, when it provided the HMRC with an almost 200-page-long dossier on the firm.
The rights body had asked the Revenue to report back on potential breaches of export restrictions that it may have noticed, but HMRC declined, prompting Privacy International to take its case to the UK High Court in the spring of 2013.
The High Court has now ruled that HMRC's refusal to release information is unlawful.
"For two years we have been asking government to come clean on what they are doing when it comes to the illegal export of FinFisher and to stand up for victims targeted by surveillance technology made on British soil," said Privacy International's deputy director, Eric King.
"Today's ruling is an important victory, and a step in the right direction to holding Gamma International, and the rest of this secretive industry, to account."
In his ruling Mr Justice Green said that HMRC's stance was "irrational" and "simply inconsistent with the legislation", according to Privacy International and court papers (PDF).
"Now that the High Court has rightfully said that HMRC's actions were unlawful, I hope that government takes action to bring justice to all of the victims whose rights have been violated because of this intrusive spyware," said rights activist Dr Ala'a Shehab.
"More broadly, it should take responsibility for all dual-use exports that are knowingly sent to repressive governments that will likely use them for criminal activity, including human rights violations, such as Bahrain."
HMRC told V3 that it is considering the decision and its response. "We are considering the detail of the judgment," said an HMRC spokesperson. "The Judicial Review confirms that we may only disclose information where the law allows it, and HMRC remains committed to its legal duty of confidentiality."
The decision comes as awareness of surveillance tools and tactics used by governments has dominated the headlines after the PRISM revelations of 2013 caused by the leaks from Edward Snowden.
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