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RIP could wreck UK business, Chamber of Commerce realises

The penny drops

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The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) has got so irate about the government's planned Internet controls it has sent it a letter.

But, unfortunately for British industry, the letter sent by BCC head Chris Humphries to Jack Straw is too little too late. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons in February, and has been the subject of several heated debates in civil rights circles since.

Tory and Lib Dem MPs have tried and failed to get changes made to the Bill. It has got through the House of Commons with no major changes, and is due to go to committee stage in the House of Lords next Thursday.

Only at this stage does the BCC decide to voice its concerns publicly on RIP. Humphries' letter raises such issues as clarification on inception device costs, and concerns over the burden of proof when encryption keys are demanded – but this is all old ground for RIP watchers.

"It is good that the BCC is trying – it is good to put pressure on politicians. But it is too late in my view. One way or another this Bill will become law," said Yaman Akdeniz, director of the Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties UK group.

According to Akdeniz, there was insufficient debate or criticism at the right time – ie. when the Bill was being formulated.

"The only changes that can be made at this stage are amendments – the Bill itself cannot be changed."

Images of stable doors shutting and horses bolting spring to mind?

A representative of the BCC, which has 126,000 business members in the UK, leapt to the group's defence. "I don't think it's too late. The Bill is still at the stage where amendments can be made.

"The chapter's not yet closed on this Bill," he said. ®

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