Jack Straw wins coveted Menace Award

Straw named as top tyrant for Internet legislation

Home secretary Jack Straw scooped a lifetime cybersnoop award from civil rights groups Monday for his role in implementing new Internet surveillance laws in Britain.

At the Big Brother Awards, an annual ceremony to name and shame the country's worst privacy offenders, held in London Monday, ex-MI5 agent and government whistleblower David Shayler presented Straw's prize.

Straw received the dubious honour of the Lifetime Menace Award for instigating the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, which gives police and the intelligence services powers to wiretap Internet users in Britain. Privacy advocates have criticised the Act for giving police unfettered powers to eavesdrop on the public.

"Now it could be argued that Britain is one of the foremost surveillance countries in the world and you can trace that violation straight back to Jack Straw," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, co-host of the event.

It has recently also been revealed that government intelligence departments hope to collate the Internet browsing and email traffic of all citizens stretching back years.

The government has justified its Internet eavesdropping plans by citing figures on the escalating problem of cybercrime.

Shayler told ZDNet News in a private meeting that it was hard to see how these plans could be justified for crime fighting or preserving national security. Facing prosecution for breaking the Official Secrets Act by revealing details of controversial intelligence service activities, Shayler argued that the British government is infringing more and more on citizens' rights. He calls for greater protections for individual privacy.

"When the Human Rights Act was brought into British law earlier this year, I thought that would make some kind of difference," he said. "Personally I don't think it has. I don't think it goes far enough. I think the people of this country need to move on from being subjects to citizens in a democracy in which our rights are properly protected."

They can see you... Read about how and why in Surveillance, a ZDNet News Special

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