Lords humiliates the government on RIP

The government suffers another embarrassing defeat over its Internet snooping bill Wednesday as the Lords votes to include two amendments recommended by the opposition
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

The RIP (Regulation of Investigatory Powers) Bill is proving a millstone round the government's neck as business, political and industry experts rally against what they see as unworkable and untenable legislation.

Proposed powers to snoop on the Net are seen as a major intrusion into privacy but the Bill also threatens to cast a black cloud over prime minister Tony Blair's plans to make the UK the "best place for e-commerce" by the year 2002.

The first of the two amendments voted by the Lords yesterday will ensure that an advisory board -- consisting of 50 percent industry interests and 50 percent law enforcers -- oversees all future Home Office plans for Internet surveillance. The second will force the government to reimburse companies for the cost of installing the black boxes needed to monitor email and Internet traffic.

The biggest defeat could be yet to come as the Lords prepare to vote on the issue of government access to encryption keys Thursday. This is the real hot potato of the Bill with detractors claiming that any government access will damage e-commerce as businesses will see the UK as an encryption-unfriendly country and take trade elsewhere.

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