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UK gov't reveals Big Brother bill

Police to get access to emails, spy on Net use etc

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Yesterday the UK Government published details of its plans to allow law enforcement agencies to access email correspondence. Now, for the first time, UK police will be able to lawfully read your emails and listen in on your mobile phone conversations. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is being positioned by Government spin doctors as nothing more than a move to treat new communications techniques the same way as conventional telephony, but is already attracting criticism. Pagers and the use of the Internet will also be covered by the proposed legislation which is expected to come into force later this year. According to the Financial Times, the Government wants it on the statute books before the Human Rights Act comes into being in October. Critics of the surveillance bill are concerned that giving officials the power to demand access to encryption keys will open the door to a range of privacy abuse issues. While the attempt to crack down on the use of the Net as a way of distributing offensive and illegal material (be it from racist organisations or paedophile rings) will be supported by most people, there is a concern that the proposed legislation will be used as a blunt instrument. Failure to hand over a text-only version of a suspected email or give the police access to the encryption key you are using could result in a two year prison sentence. Another area of concern is that the police will be able to grant their own warrants to use the proposed Act's powers to put someone under surveillance. ®

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