Anger over encryption key seizure threat

Talkback: Ninety percent of readers polled oppose the introduction of Part 3 of the RIP Act

Readers have reacted angrily to the news that UK police may soon have the power to demand encryption keys from businesses and individuals.

ZDNet UK reported on Thursday that the government is planning to activate Part 3 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which gives law enforcement officers the authority to order the disclosure of encryption keys, or force suspects to decrypt encrypted data.

But, as several readers pointed out, the law could well be impossible to enforce.
"As encrypted data appears to be 'random' data, how will they know what is encrypted or just junk?" asked one reader.

Another, a tech support professional, pointed out that serious criminals would rather face a short sentence for withholding their key than risk a longer one by handing over incriminating evidence.

"This law — just like many others this government has introduced — would be expensive and almost impossible to enforce. Better to spend the money employing the expertise to de-code the systems which can be seized legitimately through existing laws."

Other readers suggested the move was reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984.

More then 600 people took part in a poll on ZDNet UK, which asked whether they supported the government's plans. Nearly 90 percent said they opposed the idea, with eight percent saying they were unconvinced and just two percent backing the government.

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Legal experts are also concerned about the implications of Part 3 of the RIP Act. "When it was passed, RIPA evoked fears that innocent people would be sent to jail for forgetting their password. The Home Office will have a tough job addressing the renewal of these fears in its code of practice,” said Struan Robertson, senior associate at Pinsent Masons