On Thursday, Motherboard reported that, for the first time, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has the technological capability to hack. Through documents released as part of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, a proposed piece of surveillance legislation, it is now clear that the NCA, which is sometimes referred to as the UK’s version of the US FBI, has “Equipment Interference” (EI) capabilities, which may include hacking into phones, tablets or computers.

Now, it has emerged that the law used to govern those powers is one that dates from the late 90s, leading experts to worry that highly intrusive technological powers are being regulated by a law that was written well before law enforcement were even hacking computers.

“NCA activity which would constitute Equipment Interference under the Investigatory Powers Bill is currently carried out under property interference authorisations under Part III of the Police Act 1997 alongside other authorisations as appropriate,” an NCA spokesperson told Motherboard in an email.

The “property interference authorisations” that the NCA spokesperson mentioned can be applied to cases where police wish to install a bug or eavesdropping device in a car, perhaps to record speech within the vehicle, according to a Home Office document, entitled “Covert Surveillance and Property Interference: Revised Code of Practice.”

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