Surveillance: Straw petitioned on commerce bill controversy

Encryption pranksters target Home Secretary, with a serious purpose.

In a stunt organised by the civil liberties group Stand, The Home Secretary Jack Straw was sent details to a crime Sunday that could earn him up to two years in prison if the controversial e-commerce bill were made law.

The group is campaigning for better e-commerce policy and is unhappy with a clause in the e-commerce bill which gives law enforcers the right to demand decryption keys from suspects. Under the bill, if a suspect refuses or cannot prove they do not have a key, they could face a jail sentence.

Critics argue this reverses the burden of proof as suspects are assumed to be in possession of decryption keys in the first place. For individuals who have lost the key or never had the key in the first place there is no recourse.

Stand's says its stunt is designed to "show that the legislation is unworkable".

According to Stand an encrypted email was sent to Mr Straw Sunday afternoon containing a confession to a real crime. The key to decrypt the message will be in Mr Straw's name. Stand will tip off the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police Monday, informing him that Mr Straw has important information about a crime.

If the e-commerce bill were in place, Straw would be required to hand over the decryption key or face up to two years in prison. "In principle, under the bill, Jack Straw would have to prove he never had the key in the first place. We are hoping this will help him understand that this is unworkable, an intolerable reversal of the burden of proof and against the Human Rights Act," Says Malcolm Hutty, spokesman for Stand.

See also: "An open letter to Jack Straw".

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