Information disclosed by WikiLeaks suggests Macau’s police authorities were in talk with Italian IT company HackerTeam over the purchase of a certain Remote Control System back in 2012. The system hacks into and monitor smartphones in secret beyond the scope of lawful criminal investigation. In contrast to conventional phone tapping, RCS may be operated solely by the law enforcement without cooperation from telecoms under court order.
Only under warrant from a judge and to specific target, police authorities are allowed to tap phone, intercept or record the content, according to Article 172 of the Code of Criminal Procedures.
Marketing material from HackingTeam advertised the system as “[a] stealth, spy-ware based system for attacking, infecting, and monitoring computers and smartphones. Full intelligence on target users even for encrypted communications.” In criminal cases, only legally collected intelligence can be admitted by the court of law as evident. Once armed with RCS, however, the Judicial Police (PJ) will be capable of conducting surveillance way beyond the legal boundary. This can be effectively used to target citizens, journalists, activists for intelligence gathering, without order from the judiciary. Information from WikiLeaks also shows that PJ asked for confidentiality and untraceability (giving the PJ “deniability” of its involvement in the implantation of spying tools), making illegal attack and monitoring to come even harder to be detected.
Furthermore, information available on Wikileaks suggests that the CCAC has invited the HackingTeam to demonstrate the its products. However, there is no information suggesting CCAC’s acquisition of the RCS.
All government organs, including the PJ, must comply with the Principle of Legality thus shall not act without specific authorisation by the law. Intrusion and surveillance without consent is strictly illegal for purposes other than lawful criminal investigation. The New Macau Association (NMA) expresses great concern over the jeopardy to privacy of all Macau citizens, for the possibility that we may have been threatened by discretionary intrusion and surveillance from our government. The NMA is passing relevant materials to the Public Prosecutor demanding an investigation into PJ’s use of spying tools and possible violation of laws, in particular, Article 6 “Illegitimate Interception of Computer Data” of the “Law against Cybercrime.”
Co-authored with Scott Chiang