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UPDATE: Debate about snoopers bill delayed

Government delays discussion about extensions to Ripa

A debate about the addition of controversial amendments to Ripa (the Regulatory Data of Investigatory Powers Act), which would give several bodies the power gain access to sensitive private information, has been postponed.

The extensions to the Act, which would give private bodies and several government departments the ability to access private information including emails and telephone phone records for 'security purposes', due to be debated by the House of Commons today, have been put back due to "timetabling difficulties".

The proposals have already attracted criticism from both pressure groups and Tory peers, who have spoken out about the so-called snoopers charter.

"The proposed powers are absolutely unnecessary and over the top," said Simon Davies, spokesman for civil liberties group Privacy International.

"This new setup creates an extremely dangerous situation where bodies think they have a right to private information, when it is clear that they don't," said Davies.

Under the current Act only the police, Customs and Excise, and the Inland Revenue have the power to access private emails and telephone records.

The Financial Services Authority and the Food Standards Agency are just two of the organisations demanding to be added to this list.

"If the FSA needs this information because a crime has been committed then they should go through the police as they already have to," said Davies. "The police act as a reality check to bodies and determine when information should be released and this system works fine, but this could be removed."

Another problem Davies highlights is one for ISPs.

"ISPs will have extreme difficulty in determining a valid request from a frivolous one. They could be handing over information to these bodies in the most minor circumstances, which is not in keeping with the original Act," added Davies.

The debate's delay is "probably more to do with ironing out minor points", according to Davies, than to create safeguards or reassurances for the public.

A rescheduled date has not yet been announced, although it is likely to be early next week.

If passed, the proposals will come into force on 1 August.

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