Data protection chief swipes out at spying Bill

Liberty and data protection chief join ever-growing queue of RIP critics
Written by Will Knight, Contributor

Britain's data protection commissioner Elizabeth France hit out at the government's controversial cyber-surveillance bill Wednesday.

Speaking at a conference in London, France says there should be far greater accountability for those given powers to monitor email and browsing under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers(RIP) Bill, currently at committee stage in the House of Lords.

The Bill currently stipulates that law enforcers should be able to monitor all UK Internet communications as well as confiscate keys needed to decipher encrypted messages with a warrant from a government minister.

"I'm not saying any government minister would abuse this, but in a society where it is possible to invade privacy to this extent, you need some assurance that it's fair. We believe that there should be judicial warrants before interception," says France.

In her keynote presentation France says that privacy is a fundamental human right that needs to be upheld. "Privacy to those who don't like it is equated to secrecy, but it's so much more than that," she says.

"It's about respecting the private lives of individuals."

The RIP Bill is intended to help police tackle crime and terrorism but British human rights organisation Liberty says that the proposed powers threaten the rights of all Internet users. "This legislation goes too far," says a spokeswoman. "There is a danger that innocent people will be forced to reveal material that it is not necessary for the government to know. Legislation can meet government's concerns on being able to decrypt material in other ways, less damaging to human rights."

The government's Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill looks set for a bumpy ride thorough the House of Lords. Good. Give it hell says Tony Westbrook. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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