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Snooping law under attack

RIP under attack

There have been calls for chunks of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) bill to be scrapped or rewritten from a coalition of ISPs, businesses and academics.

The RIP bill deals with mass surveillance - such as phone tapping - but it also deals with the police and intelligence services’ ability to intercept and decrypt emails.

The RIP bill would force ISPs to fit and pay for a ‘black box’, which would, route Internet traffic to a yet to be built £25m web snooping centre (otherwise known as the Government Technical Assistance Centre or GTAC).

The legislation will also allow the intelligence services to demand decryption keys from the sender of an encrypted email. If they either refuse or cannot prove they have lost the decryption key they can face two years in prison and a fine. Civil liberties and Human Rights groups have already challenged this as it operates on the tenet of guilty until proven innocent.

Additionally, if the accused tells anybody that they have given their encryption key to the government, they will be guilty of ‘tipping off’ – and can be sentenced to a 5 year jail term and fine.

Industry and researchers have stated that the legislation will greatly affect confidence in the security of Internet traffic and e-commerce, due to the government’s blanket access. There are also worries that it could cripple the Internet industry with the additional costs of meeting the government’s demands.

Estimates of what the bill could cost UK business have come from the London School of Economics (LSE) and the British Chamber of Commerce - they range between £35bn and £46bn over the next five years.

Simon Davies, from LSE, stated that the bill would erode trust and confidence in the UK e-commerce industry. "This has already begun because many people are watching these developments closely. Some investors will overlook investing in the UK if this bill goes through."

Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, claimed the bill would be a serious strategic error for the government: "It will be a running sore that will blight the e-commerce industry in this country."

The calls have also garnered support from the Lords. Lord Cope of Berkeley added: "I’d like to see large sections of the bill rewritten - but I don’t see the government doing this. They need to push it through quickly."


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