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UK plc ignorant of RIP Act

Snoopers' charter still confuses

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Awareness of the Government's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) remains low among UK businesses and ISPs more than a year after the controversial legislation became law.

A survey of 100 senior managers in UK companies and 100 ISPs by law firm Nabarro Nathanson found 86 per cent of businesses and an even more surprising 61 per cent of ISPs were unaware of RIPA. The survey also reveals uncertainty among ISPs about how much they will have to spend to comply with the legislation, and highlights that many ISPs are considering moving at least part of their operations abroad because of RIPA.

Of those businesses aware of the Act, which became law in November 2000, half were not aware that it contained provisions that would permit government agencies to compel organisations to reveal private keys which would unlock encrypted information in their possession.

A code of practice for the seizure of keys has been repeatedly delayed, however Nabarro Nathanson advises its high time that firms begin formulating plans about how they will deal with the Act. RIPA means firms need to review their policies and review contracts of employment deal with the legislation.

Dai Davis, a consultant lawyer at Nabarro Nathanson, said because that the Act applies to individuals and not companies this could create a conflict of interest when the authorities request employees private keys held by their employer.

This "inconsistency" means sys admins, who might be served with notices, would have to seek external legal advice, but could not ask supervisors about taking that advice. The RIP Act only allows those receiving notices to contact lawyers, and that in very limited circumstances.

"Under RIPA, where an in-house lawyer is consulted, it would appear that the in-house lawyer would be conflicted out from giving advice to giving advice to the recipient of the notice served under the Act," said Davis.

Firms need to place procedures in place which would allow staff access to external legal advice, he added.

Britain's RIP Act, which is designed to regulate the monitoring of electronic communications by police and the intelligence services, has been condemned by critics as a snoopers charter. It is designed to allow the authorities to crack down on the illegal use of the Internet by terrorists, perverts and organised criminals but its opponents argue the legislation is seriously flawed. ®

External links

Stand.org - campaign site with extensive background (and criticisms) on the RIP Act

Related Stories

RIPA Code of Practice goes out to public consultation
RIP Bill - full coverage up to July 2000
Criminal Law Review tears strips off RIP Act
Spooks cock snooks at RIP oversight
RIP not a problem thanks to police stupidity
Email snooping row kicks off again
Email snooping code of practice delayed
Employer snooping code: don't eavesdrop on staff

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