May 19, 2006

RIPA awakes

One of the first pieces of legislation where New Labour really got into it's authoritarian stride was the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act enacted in early 2000 after heated debate in 1999. This terrible piece of legislation gave the State the right to secretly intercept all peoples communications, it forced ISPs into being their unwilling informants, it meant that if anyone telling you that your communications where being tapped was a criminal offense. It meant that you telling anyone that your communications where being tapped was a criminal offense. One of it's most controversial elements was to do with cryptography.

This mean that if you had any encrypted material on your hard disk you had to hand over all the keys if they where demanded. It was up to you to prove that you where unable to if that was the case, reversing the normal burden of proof. An example of what problems this could cause; if I sent you an encrypted file containing some secret data, Polly Toynbee's salary for example, but forget to send you the password then you will have some encrypted data on your hard disk. Since it is useless without the password you delete it and forget the incident. Now here is the rub, it is still on your hard disk. In windows, many Linux distros, or the standard Mac OS X delete function[1] when a file is deleted the data is not removed just the index of where it is held. So now you are liable to a five year prison sentence for something completely innocent, and it is up to you to prove that you are innocent. This part of the Act was not activated strait away but has laid dormant for six years. Until now.

These powers will of course be used only against the most heinous of criminals such or so we where assured back when they where being created, so it is rather disconcerting that New Labour also chooses today as the day to release some more eye catching initiatives such as
Police intelligence records could be opened to frontline council workers under a draft plan being considered by Downing Street.
So the extremely heinous crimes that needed the extensive violations of privacy and a reversal of the burden of proof incorporated in RIPA would include littering then?

Spyblog has a more detailed account of this terrible legislation, as well as New Labour's latest piece of authoritarian horror as it grinds its way towards the statute books.

[1]Use the Secure Delete option, it's slower but this really does delete the data so as to make it unrecoverable.


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