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ISPs bothered with daft questions

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Well, the RIP Act may be Draconian but we shouldn't worry at the moment because the police haven't got a clue what they're doing. That at least is what representatives of the ISP Association said at a forum in the House of Lords yesterday.

It would seem that ISPs are being dogged by stupid questions from police forces, pointing to their utter miscomprehension of how the Internet works. One example given was World Online being asked if, by any chance, a suspected criminal had an email address with them. We can't decide which is greater - the level of abuse or the degree of stupidity.

It would seem the police don't realise it's not terribly hard to create a new email account fairly easily under a pseudonym. A criminal is likely to have sussed this. Another example was the police asking a UK ISP if they could get all the information from a particular Hotmail address. And how, pray tell, will they be able to do that?

Worse than that, it would seem as though any old copper is calling up ISPs with such queries - wasting companies' time and effort. The Home Office has admitted that large numbers of police are technically illiterate and has said it is trying to get forces to use just one person to talk to ISPs.

So it would seem that we're safe from unwarranted intrusion for the moment. Although when the police's dedicated Internet section kicks off, you can be sure that they'll work it out pretty fast and then use the law to its fullest extent. Hopefully by then the much-awaited code of practice for RIP will have been released and significant abuse can be curtailed.

Should the police really be allowed to simply and openly make a phone call to an ISP and be given access to all the traffic from a particular email account? No, they shouldn't. But that's how the law stands at the moment. ®

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