Government to ease RIP Bill powers

Despite moves by the Government to head off a House of Lords revolt over the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, industry specialists say it still has some way to go to meet all the problems with the Bill

The Government has begun a climbdown over the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill.

The move, intended to head off a threatened House of Lords revolt, follows fears that the Bill's proposals would put corporate liability at risk, leaving IT directors having to implement decryption notices, but unable to inform their company directors.

Chris Humphries, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the proposed amendments "would go a long way towards meeting the concerns of industry over the RIP Bill".

Home Office ministers have also agreed to move on three other key issues:

  • Make "plain text" printouts of the decrypted material the "default" in the majority of cases, rather than handing over a decryption key.
  • Tighten the loose description of Internet "communications data" that underpins the Bill.
  • Make the cost burden on Internet service providers in setting up e-mail facilities "more explicit". The Home Office agreed it would not place an "unreasonable burden" on industry.

Despite the move, industry specialists said the Government still had some way to go to meet all the problems with the Bill. Pressure groups campaigning to make the Bill workable say issues still to be resolved include defining service roles on the Internet, establishing who is liable for breaches of confidentiality during government investigations and developing a more focused code of practice.

Critics say that the Government's problems with the Bill stem from failing to talk to users, in particular IT security managers, during industry consultation.

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