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FIPR Press Release - FIPR Appalled by Huge Increase in Government Snooping
FOR IMMEDIATE USE : 10 June 2002
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act is to be amended before it even comes into force to dramatically increase the number of official bodies that can access personal details of phone calls and emails. The Act was hugely controversial when it went through Parliament in 2000, with defeats for the Government in the Lords and significant changes being made to prevent its complete rejection.
Now the powers that were originally only given to the police, customs, secret services and the taxman are to be made available to a huge range of Government departments, local authorities, the NHS and even to Consignia (the Post Office).
Ian Brown, Director of FIPR commented, "I am appalled at this huge increase in the scope of Government snooping. Two years ago, we were deeply concerned that these powers were to be given to the police without any judicial oversight. Now they're handing them out to a practically endless queue of bureaucrats in Whitehall and Town Halls."
The powers contained in RIP Part I Chapter II allow notices to be served on telephone companies, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or postal operators to obtain information such as the name and address of users, phone numbers called, source and destination of emails, the identity of web sites visited or mobile phone location data accurate to a hundred metres or less.
However, this part of the Act has proved to be complex to implement. A draft Code of Practice only became available for consultation in Autumn 2001 and is still being rewritten to reflect the poor reception it received. The Government is now suggesting that this process will be completed by August, but this is only the latest date in a long series of missed deadlines.
Ian Brown remarked, "The difficulty that the Government has encountered in getting the right processes in place for the police should make us ultra-cautious in extending these powers to such a wide range of bodies. We don't think that there's been enough resources put into the oversight arrangements for the current proposals, let alone what will be needed for this huge extension. In practice, these bodies are going to obtain this personal data on anyone they wish, without any effective way of checking what they're doing".
He continued, "which websites we visit or where we travel with a mobile phone in our pocket reveals a great deal of personal information. Accessing this information needs to be made more difficult, not opened up to this huge range of new enquirers. I look at this list and wonder not at who they've added, but if I can possibly think of anyone they've left out."
Contacts for enquiries:Ian Brown Director Foundation for Information Policy Research firstname.lastname@example.org 07970 164526 William Heath Vice-Chairman, FIPR email@example.com
Notes for editors
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