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Spy agencies need ‘independent authorisation’ to access telecoms data, say judges

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Spy agencies need ‘independent authorisation’ to access telecoms data, say judges

The High Court has ruled that UK intelligence agencies should seek independent authorisation before accessing phone and internet records during criminal investigations

Bill Goodwin

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Published: 29 Jun 2022 9:15

The security and intelligence services will have to obtain independent authorisation before accessing citizens’ private phone and internet records during criminal investigations following a landmark High Court decision.

Two High Court judges have ruled that MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have been unlawfully given permission to access individuals’ communications data for the prevention or detection of serious crime under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, known as the Snoopers’ Charter.

Lord Justice Singh and Justice Holgate found that the ability of the UK’s intelligence services to authorise their own access to the private communications data of the public for investigating crime is incompatible with EU laws that have been retained by the UK legal system after Brexit.

The case brought by the campaign group Liberty represents a partial victory for the civil society group, which began its first legal challenge against the lawfulness of the state’s bulk surveillance powers five years ago in 2017.

“The court has agreed that it’s too easy for the security services to get their hands on our data. From now on, when investigating crime, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ will have to obtain independent authorisation before having access to our communications data,” said Megan Goulding, lawyer for Liberty.

The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 allows the intelligence services and other government agencies to access the private communications and personal information of UK citizens irrespective of whether there is any evidence of wrongdoing.

The court found, however, in a 35-page judgment, that there was no reason for the intelligence services not to be subject to the same safeguards as the police when gathering surveillance data to investigate or prevent crime.

The “mere fact” that GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 generally operate in the field of national security does not make them exempt from the safeguards that apply to the police when investigating crime, the judges found.

“The court has agreed that it’s too easy for the security services to get their hands on our data. From now on, when investigating crime, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ will have to obtain independent authorisation before having access to our communications data”
Megan Goulding, Liberty

“When the security and intelligence agencies act for an ordinary criminal purpose, we cannot see any logical or practical reason why they should not be subject to the same legal regime as the police,” they wrote.

The case is the latest in a long-running legal battle between Liberty, the Home Department and the Department of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs over the UK’s bulk surveillance powers.

Ben Jaffey QC, representing Liberty, argued during a two-day hearing that the Investigatory Powers Act allowed intelligence agencies “general and indiscriminate” access to records of people’s private phone an internet activity, contrary to EU law.

The judges rejected the argument on the grounds that the IPA does not impose a blanket requirement on telecoms and internet companies to retain communications data.

All applications to exercise bulk surveillance powers require a warrant from the secretary of state, who must be satisfied the request is necessary and proportionate, according to the High Court judgment. Use of the bulk surveillance powers is also subject to approval by an independent judicial commissioner.

The Office of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal also provide an oversight role, the judges said.

The judges dismissed arguments from Liberty that the automated processing of bulk communications data by the UK intelligence services was incompatible with EU law retained after Brexit.

Singh and Holgate found there was no absolute requirement under EU law to notify people whose communications had been monitored once investigations had been completed.

It was sufficient that an individual who suspects they have been subject to surveillance can make a complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which has the power to make legally binding decisions.

The judges said that under a code of practice, public authorities had a duty to report any mistaken access or disclosure of communications data to the surveillance watchdog, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

The commissioner must inform anyone affected by errors made by public authorities under the IPA 2016, if the error is serious and it is in the public interest to disclose it.

Journalists’ sources

The judges dismissed arguments by Liberty that bulk interception does not provide sufficient safeguards to protect journalistic material and sources.

They wrote that the government has accepted a decision by the European Court of Human Rights that safeguards are required for journalistic material and has announced plans to legislate to introduce greater protection for journalists in the UK.

Any surveillance requests to identify or confirm a journalistic source must be approved by a judicial commissioner and can only be authorised if there is an “overriding” public interest, according to the judgment.

Following the judgment, Liberty said it would apply for permission to appeal several points, including the question of whether the bulk surveillance powers authorised by the IPA permit “general and indiscriminate” data collection which requires higher safeguards in UK law.

Liberty is also seeking an appeals court decision over whether state agencies are required to obtain independent authorisation each time they access stored communications data.

The civil society group is bringing a wider case against the IPA in the Court of Appeal, which is expected to be heard later this year.

Liberty said it believes the powers of the IPA are too broad and that legal safeguards in the act fail to protect individuals’ rights of privacy and free expression. They also fail to adequately protect journalists and their sources.

“Mass surveillance powers do not make us safer; they breach our privacy and undermine core pillars of our democracy,” said Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding. “[This ruling] represents a huge landmark in reigning in our mass surveillance powers, and we hope now the government creates proper safeguards that protect our rights.”





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5 reasons you should buy a cheap phone over an expensive one

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5 reasons you should buy a cheap phone over an expensive one
Moto G22 face down on top of a wall



The Moto G22 on a wall.
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking for a new phone, a key consideration is always budget – you want to buy the best phone you can afford. But maybe, even if you’ve got the money for a premium device, you should still opt for a cheap phone.

“Wait,” you’re probably thinking, “are you asking me to spend less than I’m able on my new phone?”  Yes, I am – you’re absolutely right.

You see, despite budget phones being weaker than premium ones in quite a few ways (obviously), there are a few departments in which they actually beat top-end models.

So we’re going to run through some different areas in which cheap phones actually trump their pricier rivals. 

1. It costs less money

Okay, we’ve got to start with the really, really obvious point. A cheap phone is – you guessed it – cheaper than an expensive one.

If you spend less on your phone, you’ve got more to spend on the best power banks, phone cases, charging cables, and so on. Plus, you’ve got extra for non-smartphone things. Y’know: bills, food, transport, and so on.

Smartphones operate on the rule of diminishing returns: a $400 smartphone is not twice as good as a $200 one, and a $1,200 phone isn’t twice as good as a $600 version or four times better in any way than a $300 one.

So if you want the best bang for your buck, a budget mobile will get you there.

Moto G9 Power

The Moto G9 Power has a massive battery. (Image credit: Future)

2. Much better battery life

Phones don’t have great battery life sometimes: when you factor in features like 5G, high refresh rates, top-end processors, and so on, a giant battery can get worn down incredibly quickly.

But you know what cheap phones don’t have? That’s right – any of those features. If a phone is 4G-only, has a low-res screen, and only runs with a middling chipset, it uses the battery at a much slower rate. All of the longest-lasting smartphones are budget ones.

That’s doubly the case when you consider that cheap phone makers like to use huge batteries in their phones – plenty have 5,000mAh power packs. Motorola has even used 6,000mAh ones in some phones, and certain Chinese rugged phone brands have gone even higher.

If you want a long-lasting phone, you’ve got to opt for a cheap handset with fewer features. It also makes such devices reliable for more extended periods.

3. Hardier designs

Glass has become one of the most commonly-used materials for smartphones – it adds to a premium-feeling build and looks good from all angles. 

But you know what glass isn’t? Durable. It can easily smash from an impact like a drop. It’s also slippery, making glass phones harder to hold. Because of this, mid-range and premium phones are more susceptible to damage, even if brands slap silly marketing terms on them like ‘Gorilla Glass Victus’ or ‘Ceramic Shield’.

Cheap phone makers generally stay away from glass. This is mainly because of cost, but it’s beneficial for affordable phone fans because plastic is hardier.

A plastic phone is much more likely to survive a drop or hard knock, letting you avoid the experience of having to get your device repaired as often (or ever, hopefully).

Realme 9 Pro Plus

The Realme 9 Pro Plus has a cool-looking, yet plastic, rear. (Image credit: Future)

4. Cooler chipsets

Cheap phones often have cooler chipsets. No, we don’t mean ‘sunglasses and Tommy Bahama shirt cool’ – we mean temperature-wise.

Premium phones get top-end chipsets, which provide loads of processing power for tasks like games. An annoying side-effect of loads of power, though, is that these chips can get incredibly hot if you use them for long periods.

Counter-intuitively, this means that mid-range chips can be better for gaming if you like playing for extended amounts of time, and don’t need the most top-end graphics available to you.

As you can imagine, budget phones often have weaker internals, so they generally don’t have overheating issues, and are fine for gaming. Plus, in this day and age, you rarely find phones that are slow, even in the lower-cost market.

5. A bigger range of fingerprint scanners

There’s a trend in the premium phone market towards in-screen fingerprint scanners, where the sensor for unlocking your phone is embedded under the display.

This is a fine way of unlocking your device for some, but if you prefer a back- or side-mounted scanner, you’re mostly out of luck at the top end of the market.

That’s not the case for cheap phones, though: you’ll find those digit sensors all over the place in the lower end of the market. Some phones have them in-screen, others have them on one or both sides of the phone, while plenty have the scanner on the back.

So if you like tapping the rear of your phone to unlock it, or caressing the side of the device, instead of just tapping the screen, budget devices are, in fact, the best phones for you.

Tom Bedford

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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We’re in love with this leaked Xbox Elite Series 2 controller design

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We’re in love with this leaked Xbox Elite Series 2 controller design
An Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 in white



(Image credit: Nicholas Lugo)

The Xbox Elite Series 2 wireless controller looks like it’s getting a brand new color variant with a White Edition.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 has so far only been available in its default black color scheme. But a short clip shared on Twitter (opens in new tab) by leaker Rebs Gaming shows off a new white edition in the flesh.

The clip starts by showing the premium Xbox Series X|S controller’s box. Next, we’re given a look at the controller itself, which wears a clean white-on-black coat.

All the usual Elite Controller bells and whistles are accounted for. That includes the carry case, swappable analog sticks and customizable back paddle buttons. It looks like the genuine article, though we’ve heard nothing from Microsoft to confirm if or when the pad will actually be released.

A sign of pads to come?

Leak: I think this is our first footage of the Xbox Elite Series 2 White Edition controller. A leaked image of the controller was shown by @IdleSloth84 back in March. Source: https://t.co/WfMCEk3FQv#Xbox #XboxOne #XboxSeriesX pic.twitter.com/t97qbaNPCuAugust 8, 2022

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Okay, sure, the White Edition isn’t exactly the most daring design Microsoft could’ve chosen for its Elite pad. But it’s nonetheless eye-catching. I think that keeping certain parts of the controller black – like the sticks and grips – is a smart aesthetic choice. They contrast really nicely with the white center.

The Elite Series 2 is an excellent controller. But it’s lacking the one thing that the regular Xbox Wireless Controller has in abundance: color options. We’ve seen countless bold designs for the standard Xbox controller, including an eye-popping special edition for Forza Horizon 5 and a stunning hot pink design. But the Elite hasn’t really had the same treatment yet.

I hope that this new White Edition not only comes to market, but that it’s also a gateway for more ambitious designs for Xbox’s top pad. Seriously, a purple Elite pad would be an instant buy for me, and probably for many others, too.

Rhys Wood

Rhys is Hardware Writer for TechRadar Gaming, and while relatively fresh to the role, he’s been writing in a professional capacity for years. A Media, Writing and Production graduate, Rhys has prior experience creating written content for app developers, IT firms, toy sellers and the main TechRadar site. His true passions, though, lie in video games, TV, audio and home entertainment. When Rhys isn’t on the clock, you’ll usually find him logged into Final Fantasy 14, Halo Infinite or Sea of Thieves.

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Street Fighter 6 is bringing the ‘80s (and feet) back

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Street Fighter 6 is bringing the ‘80s (and feet) back

Here come some new challengers. At the end of EVO 2022’s Street Fighter V tournament, Capcom revealed two more characters coming to the roster of Street Fighter 6: Juri, the “I can fix her” returning fighter, and newcomer Kimberly, an ‘80s-obsessed teen.

Kimberly, the spunky new ninja, and Juri, the sadistic thrill-seeker, join #StreetFighter6 when it arrives in 2023! Spray cans, a portable cassette player, and motorcyles have never looked more fresh. ️ pic.twitter.com/Lnw87p27aP

— Street Fighter (@StreetFighter) August 8, 2022

Student of Guy and successor to the bushinryu tradition, Kimberly is spunky and colorful with an affinity for spray painting her enemies midmatch. Though Kimberly is a teenager and Street Fighter 6 seems to be set in the current day, she’s enamored with all things ‘80s, carrying around a cassette player that some younger players probably won’t even recognize.

It’s like Capcom is aware that, in addition to its younger audience, there’s a certain subset of older Street Fighter players rising from their creaking knees and aching back looking at the ‘80s with fondness. In that way, Kimberly is a send-up, a reminder of simpler times. In other ways, she’s a very rude reminder that those happy days are so far behind us now that current teenagers are adopting the aesthetic because it’s quaintly “retro.” Thanks, Capcom, for reminding me I’m old.

Accompanying Kimberly in the character reveal is Juri, a character first introduced in Street Fighter IV. Juri arrives in flashy style with an homage to the Akira slide that’s been having a moment lately, as it was also used to awesome effect in Jordan Peele’s Nope. Juri seems a bit edgier than Kimberly, stomping all over her enemies in bare feet emphasized in ways that would make Bob Odenkirk click “like.” It’s always neat when companies seemingly embrace the thirst players have for its characters.

We’ll get the chance to see more of Juri and Kimberly’s stories when Street Fighter 6 launches on Xbox, PC, and PlayStation in 2023.

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