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[FYI] UK: Home Office to retreat on cyber-spying bill


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Home Office to retreat on cyber-spying bill  

Thu, 22 Jun 2000 16:23:00 GMT Will Knight  

Government could tone down controversial aspects of RIP to get bill 
through conference   

The Home Office is preparing to retreat on the most controversial 
aspects of the oft-condemned, cyber-snooping RIP (Regulation of 
Investigatory Powers) Bill, according to the British Chamber of 
Commerce (BCC).   

The BCC suggested the government intends to amend RIP in order to 
smooth its path through the House of Lords, where serious concerns 
about the legislation have been raised. "The message from our 
conversations with the Home Office is that they are prepared to move 
on some of the areas causing concern to business," said a BCC 

The changes could affect the bill's most controversial aspects, 
including measures that require expensive equipment installations by 
Internet service providers (ISPs), the regulation of decryption 
notices and the liability of law enforcers in possession of 
confiscated encryption keys.   

A week ago the BCC commissioned a report indicating the legislation 
could cost British e-commerce billions in lost revenue over the next 
five years. As it stands, the bill proposes to enforce ISPs to fit 
technology enabling communications interception and gives law 
enforcers powers to demand keys to encrypted data unless a suspect 
can prove he doesn't have access to the keys. This last aspect is 
considered by some to violate European human rights law.   

A government retreat would take the form of either an amendment or an 
extra piece of legislation called a "code of practice". On Monday 
Lord Bassam told the House that the Bill requires a code of practice 
to clarify the meaning of confiscating "communications data". He said 
that this could be taken to mean virtually all information.   

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) waded into the 
controversy Wednesday suggesting that the Bill is fundamentally 
unsound in a report called RIP: How to bring a deeply flawed bill 
back from the dead. The report outlines objections to the workability 
of the Bill and highlights fears that it will cost the ISP industry 

Richard Clayton, Internet policy expert and author of the ISPA 
report, is cautious about possible Home Office concessions. "There 
are a number of issues the industry has with [the bill] and we'd like 
to see movement on all of them," he said. "But the government has 
promised movement before, so I'm going to wait and see."   

The Home Office would not confirm what amendments could be on the way 
but indicated that significant change could be coming. "Throughout 
the passage of the bill we have enjoyed a constant dialogue with 
relevant industry players. Where changes which offer reassurance but 
maintain the balance of the Bill can be made, they have. The Bill's 
passage through the Lords will be no different," a spokesman said.   

IT Week's David Neal contributed to this report   

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