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FIPR Press Release - FIPR welcomes Government rethink on snooping powers

FOR IMMEDIATE USE : 18 June 2002

The Home Office is reported to have postponed its proposals to amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act to allow a huge increase in the official that can access personal details of phone calls and emails.

Attention was first drawn to the highly technical Regulations encapsulating this change by an FIPR Press Release on 10th June. The story has since become headline news and the Government has now decided not to proceed with these changes.

Ian Brown, Director of FIPR welcomed this news, "these proposals were poorly considered, poorly justified and over the past week have been condemned by almost everyone outside of Whitehall. The Home Office must now tear them up and start again from first principles."

He continued, "we are as keen as anyone else in seeing wrongdoing investigated, but we don't think that handing out such wide-reaching powers to every bureaucrat in the land is compatible with living in a free society. The Government needs to carefully consider whether self-authorisation can ever be appropriate for this type of invasion of privacy and they need to pay a lot more attention to the oversight regime. An Interception Commissioner who doesn't have the resources to open all his mail is no credible way to ensure that abuse is detected."

Contacts for enquiries:

Ian Brown Director Foundation for Information Policy Research   Richard Clayton 07887 794 090

Notes for editors

  1. The Foundation for Information Policy Research (, is a non-profit think-tank for Internet and Information Technology policy, governed by an independent Board of Trustees with an Advisory Council of experts.
  2. The only independent oversight of this part of the RIP Act is provided by the Interception Commissioner, but as no central records are kept of accesses, he must travel around every police force and agency inspecting a random sample of their records.
  3. Alan Beith MP of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee told Parliament in 2001 that the commissioner was "dependent on a tiny support structure which is quite incapable of carrying out the job... there was not even anybody to open the mail, let alone process it, for many months."

    see Hansard, 29 Mar 2001, Col 1150

  4. The order, now abandoned, is at:

  5. A RIP s22 notice will reveal details held by a communications service provider such as...
    • name and address
    • service usage details
    • details of who you have been calling
    • details of who has called you
    • mobile phone location info
    • source and destination of email
    • usage of web sites (but not pages within such sites)
  6. The current list of bodies allowed to serve RIP s22 notices is:
    • Police (all the forces, MOD police, NCS, NCIS)
    • Secret Intelligence Agencies (MI5, MI6, GCHQ)
    • Customs and Excise
    • Inland Revenue
  7. The order was to extend the list of public authorities that can issue RIP s22 notices (ie to access traffic data from telcos and ISPs)... add the following central Government departments:
    1. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
    2. The Department of Health.
    3. The Home Office.
    4. The Department of Trade and Industry.
    5. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
    6. The Department for Work and Pensions.
    7. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for Northern Ireland.
    AND pretty much any local authority:
    1. Any local authority within the meaning of section 1 of the Local Government Act 1999.
    2. Any fire authority as defined in the Local Government (Best Value) Performance Indicators Order 2000
    3. A council constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994.
    4. A district council within the meaning of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972.
    AND NHS bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland:
    1. The Common Services Agency of the Scottish Health Service.
    2. The Northern Ireland Central Services Agency for the Health and Social Services.
    AND some other bodies:
    1. The Environment Agency.
    2. The Financial Services Authority.
    3. The Food Standards Agency.
    4. The Health and Safety Executive.
    5. The Information Commissioner.
    6. The Office of Fair Trading.
    7. The Postal Services Commission.
    8. The Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency.
    9. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
    10. The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary.
    11. A Universal Service Provider within the meaning of the Postal Services Act 2000
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