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Jack Straw, Britain's most illiberal Home Secretary since the last Home Secretary, wants to give Police snooping rights over the Internet. Internet service providers will have to design their systems for easy tapping by police and government spy agencies. The proposed "modernisation" of UK law is remarkably similar to recent moves in Russia, where ISPs must pay for the Russian Federal Secret Service(formerly known as the KGB) to spy on their clients. But the UK says the changes merely bring the country into line with most other countries. ISPs will be required to "take reasonable steps" to ensure that their email traffic can be intercepted by law enforcement agencies. The Home Office is unable to quantify what costs ISP will incur. Straw is presenting the legislation as an administrative tidying up exercise. Internet Service Providers and private telecommunications carriers lie outside the remit of the Interception of Communications Act, framed by the Government in 1985. Straw does not anticipate the new law "would lead of itself to an increase in the number of communications that are intercepted". Can he be serious? ®

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