Cyber-snooping Bill through House of Commons

'Sadly inadequate' RIP bill is branded by some MPs 'a ridiculous effort and a shame on Britain's long standing human rights record'
Written by Will Knight, Contributor

The much maligned RIP (Regulation of Investigatory Powers) Bill, or 'snooping bill' as it is better known, completed its third and final reading in the House of Commons Monday despite a last ditch attack from opposition MPs.

The Bill will give law enforcers access to the 'keys' needed to decode encrypted email messages. Under the Bill's recommendations, if an individual fails to surrender that key -- even if it is lost or forgotten -- a jail sentence could follow. The police would be given rights to demand proof that such keys are unobtainable.

In a heated exchange, Tory and Liberals struck out at the human rights implications, as well as the workability and potential cost of the RIP Bill in the House. "Sadly inadequate" was the Tory cry. This was backed up by the liberals who branded the Bill "a ridiculous effort and a shame on Britain's long standing human rights record."

Amid the harsh language and burgeoning calls to have the Bill amended, a Home Office spokesman was heard to defend the government's work. "The Bill's primary purpose is to safeguard human rights," said the spokesman. He added: "It will do that by ensuring that the use of investigatory powers is fully compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights when it is incorporated into UK law this October."

But critics maintain that the Bill is legally unworkable. They also charge that the old adage, 'innocent until proven guilty' will mean nothing in Britain if the Bill goes through. Director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) Caspar Bowden is scathing: "The Home Office keeps parroting that this Bill bolsters human rights, but won't publish its legal advice which it says proves the bill is compliant with the European convention."

As well as concerns over human rights issues, it has also been suggested that implementing the RIP Bill will cost ISPs and police an estimated £30m.

Bowden adds that the bill could be disastrous for Britain financially. "The Home Office has put the British e-economy into a nose drive and we're now half way to impact," he says.

It is now up to the House of Lords to decide whether the Bill becomes law.

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