The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill has received its
second reading in the House of Lords and it will now go to the
Committee stage where final amendments can be proposed by the House
of Lords and agreed by the House of Commons. The final reading is
expected in around two weeks.30 May 2000
The Bill aims to set out a framework for monitoring electronic information. However, civil liberty and privacy groups say that the new law will give the police and security forces the power to ‘snoop’ on UK citizens using the internet.
If the Bill is passed in its present form, it is expected that ISPs will need to install new equipment connecting their data centres to an MI5 monitoring centre.
However, the government argues that the so-called RIP Bill is simply updating the existing surveillance powers of the police for the internet age. A Home Office spokesman said: “We’ve seen the growth of very strong encryption codes, virtually unreadable in fact, which are good for e-commerce security but can be used in other ways.”
Under the Bill, people who refuse to reveal encryption keys on demand by the police could face a two year prison sentence.
“The police have to prove the encryption key was deliberately withheld,” said the spokesman. “We’re not talking about people going to prison for forgetting passwords.”