Data access plan fails to win support

Opponents of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) are unlikely to be appeased by the announcement of stricter...

Opponents of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) are unlikely to be appeased by the announcement of stricter procedures for accessing data through the controversial legislation.

The Home Office has issued a draft of the Code of Practice on Accessing Communications Data for public consultation.

It provides guidance for law enforcers and other public bodies obtaining data relating to postal or telecommunications services, such as telephone billing information.

The new proposals mean that the need to obtain data must be "necessary and proportionate and for a specific purpose such as in the interests of national security, in the prevention of crime or in the interests of public safety."

Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth said, "For an action to be necessary in a democratic society it must pursue a legitimate policy aim, fulfill a pressing social need and above all be proportionate to that policy aim."

The human rights group Liberty is unhappy with the new guidelines. It believes that the changes do not protect privacy and will still enable law enforcement agencies to force disclosure of information.

The director of the pressure group, John Wadham, said, "This new code of practice will give police and other agencies permission to obtain massive amounts of information about our use of the telephone, e-mails and Internet.

"While some of our communications are trivial and of no interest to anyone, all of us make some private calls which are not the business of anyone else. What we need to protect our personal information is a Privacy Act."

The new guidelines are also unlikely to allay the fears of many UK businesses that RIPA could drive e-commerce offshore.

The RIP Act was implemented in October 2000. The consultation period for the guidelines on access ends on 2 November 2001.

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