Posts tagged ‘RIPA’

Possibly the most stupid Government proposal ever

The UK government has made a few gaffes in its time in the area of electronic privacy, but this takes the biscuit. The Times online and BBC News report a proposal by Home Office officials to create a database of all phone calls and emails sent in the UK, to be used for “protecting national security and preventing crime”.

I’ve lost count of the number of reasons this is a ridiculous idea, Here’s a few:

– Its pretty near impossible to make happen, given the diverse nature of the billing/rating and mediation systems in use by telcos, and the non-existant systems in use by ISPs to record email traffic.

– It’s a privacy nightmare. No matter what rules are put in place at the outset to control access to the information gathered, there can be no guarantee that these rules won’t be changed in the future.

– Consider the government’s track record recently with respect to protection of personal data.

The Times quotes a Home Office spokesman thus:

The Bill was needed to reflect changes in communication that would “increasingly undermine our current capabilities to obtain communications data and use it to protect the public”.

Now, the authorities already have powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to procure various records from telcos and ISPs – designated statutory agencies can require an ISP to install Government-specified monitoring equipment, for example, and give up information about the traffic generated by a specific user on demand. While this is clearly still intrusive, it does require legal process to insitigate monitoring and is done on an as-needed basis. What’s different about the new proposals is that the Government would receive data on all traffic without establishing a specific need – and can then use the information gathered at its leisure for any purpose.

The privacy implications make this a classic Governement sledgehammer to crack a nut. It’s in the same vein as the recent fuss about extending the police’s right to detain suspected terrorists for longer and longer periods, even when it can be demonstrated that the police have never used the powers they already have to their fullest extent. It’s a disproportionate solution, and should be stomped on if it ever sees light of day in a Bill before Parliament.

Update: Imran has some more insight in his blog on the same subject.


May 20, 2008 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

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