Jack Straw tipped for top cybersnoop award

Home Secretary expected to receive tongue-in-cheek award for cybersnooping

Home secretary Jack Straw is hotly tipped to receive a "Big Brother" award from civil liberty groups following his introduction of Internet snooping regulations in the UK this year.

The awards, currently in their third year, were created to name and shame government and private sector organisations that are viewed to have invaded the privacy of UK citizens. It is rumoured that disgraced ex-government agent and whistle blower David Shayler will make an appearance at the ceremony.

One source claims that Straw is expected to receive a lifetime achievement award for instigating the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, which gives law enforcers widespread powers to eavesdrop on Internet users.

According to Simon Davies, head of Privacy International (the organisers of the awards show), Jack Straw's nomination in the lifetime achievement category reflects the draconian nature of the RIP Act. "It is an indicator of how serious the situation has become and how dangerous it is to institute surveillance in our communications," he says

The RIP Act gives law enforcers the power to monitor Internet traffic in the UK through devices dubbed black boxes, installed at ISPs in the UK. It also gives law enforcers the right to demand that messages be decrypted if a suspect has used encryption to protect their messages from eavesdroppers.

While the government claims that the Act simply extends police surveillance powers to the Internet, civil liberty groups argue that the Act gives authorities too much free rein and is open to abuse. Businesses have also expressed concerns about details of the act, specifically governing the safety of encryption keys seized in an investigation. The Act has also sparked controversy for giving employers carte blanche to read workers' email.

The Big Brother awards will take place at the London School of Economics on Monday evening.

Other nominees in this category include British Telecommunications (BT), accused of not protecting the privacy of its customers and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), the government's highly secretive centre for codebreaking.

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