The UK’s Home Office has approved new powers for the police and M15 that would allow them to hack into private computers without a warrant.
Apparently, the police have had permission to remotely access home and office computers since the 1990s, but it has been seldom used.
The new proposal, which was encouraged by the European Union council of ministers, relies on the judgment of senior officers to determine whether it is necessary to begin surveillance to investigate a serious crime.
Police would then install a keystroke logger onto the suspect’s computer or use a surveillance van to intercept email traffic.
Shami Chakrabati of human rights group Liberty called the potential to hack personal computers without a warrant "a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy."
"This is no different from breaking down someone’s door, rifling through their paperwork and seizing their computer hard drive," she added.
In the U.S., the Bush administration has come under fire for its warrantless surveillance program, which gave the National Security Agency unsupervised access to phone, email and internet communications as part of the fight against terrorism.