UK Encryption Bill Gets Go-Ahead

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Encryption bill gets go-ahead for January

The Government will introduce a long awaited bill to regulate encryption and introduce wire tapping for the Internet later this month, ignoring further consultation pleas from internet service providers.

As revealed in vnunet.com in November, the Government refused to have a period of consultation with Internet Service Providers despite the fact that they argued several issues remained unclear and that informal meetings were not enough to solve them.

The bill, dubbed the Regulation of Investigatory Powers bill, was announced in November’s Queen’s Speech – the government’s annual legislative programme. It includes long standing proposals to insist on the decryption of encrypted data on demand by police, formerly in the electronic commerce bill, plus plans to update phone tapping legislation.

However, industry sources expressed concern that the Government was moving too hastily in an area which could lead Internet Service Providers, network owners and even network users with higher costs. The bill will be introduced straight into parliament.

Richard Clayton, Internet expert at Demon Internet, said: “I’m disappointed that there isn’t going to be another round of consultation. So far the issues have been misunderstood. Let’s hope we see a wonderful bill with no flaws in it.”

He estimated that the email tapping plans could add between 10 and 15 per cent to its network running costs.

Expert legal opinion has warned that the decryption proposals will contravene human rights legislation, placing network managers implementing police requests to decode data in a difficult position.

Charles Clarke, Home Office minister, said: “The bill will be laid before the House in January,” but he did not specify a date. He added that he was “keen for dialogue” but revealed little of the bill’s details, saying: “You’ll have to decide whether it’s surprising.”

He admitted however that the Home Office had been in detailed discussions about general technical developments with a range of large suppliers, including BT,Vodafone, Intel and Cisco.

Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said: “I’m not in the least reassured to hear there’ll be no further consultation.” He added that it appeared large suppliers had greater access to the Home Office’s thinking.

Clarke said he hoped the bill would become law by July.

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