Thursday, 21 April 2011

Points of law

You poor buggers back in the UK may have some cause for a little sigh of relief. The heinous Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which gave people who should never have that kind of power; to wit, local authorities and social services, the right to snoop into your deepest areas of privacy without requiring any form of justification or evidence. Often for the pettiest of matters. As could have been predicted by a two year old, said powers have been abused. This article from Pinsent Masons Out-Law site brinks a chink of light.

A home office reform is coming which will require permission for such intrusions in the form of a warrant, presumably sworn out before a Judge or Magistrate. Failure to comply will mean up to a fifty thousand quid fine from a body known as the Interception of Communications Commissioner. This will also apply to Telecomms firms. So read those End User Licence Agreements carefully for little snippets about 'gathering data' and other such innocuous phrases which will effectively allow a service provider with a licence to eavesdrop. Although it is worth noting that RIPA allows Telecomms providers to snoop for purposes connected with providing or operating their service, or 'enforcement', which presumably means making sure no one uses their services without stumping up for same. The permission under RIPA to retain your personal details / activity presumably remains unchanged.

While the 'requiring permission' move is a positive step, I'm still of the opinion that RIPA was a typically poorly thought through piece of New Labour legislation which should be axed. That and the Civil Contingencies act, where a UK Government can suspend elections for unspecified periods. Both are, as I have repeatedly blogged, evil and unnecessarily repressive pieces of legislation wide open to abuse.

The row over Super-Injunctions rolls on with a 'for the cheeldren' justification. Although I think that matters before a court should automatically require a ban on mainstream reporting until the case is over with anonymity for Defendant, Victim, and Witnesses. Jurors of course are bound to keep schtum, and rightly face prosecution if they don't. In the case of Parliament, as Parliament forms part of the regulatory mechanism, debate on an issue which would normally be considered Sub Judice should be allowed as a form of oversight. Such a principle, applied with no exemptions might be better than the current mess, where defendants can be stopped from contacting their MP or even mentioning that they are subject to an injunction. You can't tell me that's right.

A third issue, to do with the panic stricken flight cancellations due to last years Mt Unpronounceable eruption, means that even if the powers that be decide to cancel all flights as a wholly unnecessary precautionary measure, the cancellation clause in your travel insurance may not apply. So, no test case. So, even when the 'risk' is an over reaction, there's no redress? Hardly worth stumping up for the extra cover is it?


Angry Exile said...

The only trouble with threatening a 50 grand fine for misusing RIPA is that it's used by public bodies, and that the worst offenders have been local councils. And where would they get fifty grand from if they needed it in a hurry? From squeezing it out of the local citizens who paid for the bloody surveillance sans warrant in the first place. A very little sigh of relief.

Bill Sticker said...

I know AE, I know. It's a bloody good reason not to go back there though, isn't it?

Angry Exile said...

You mean another bloody good reason not to go back there? ;-)

Bill Sticker said...

You got me. Another one, indeed. As if we needed more.

The cobblition seem to be picking on bits of Nulabour legislation and pretending to reform them, then utterly failing to do so. It's like watching a game of footie where one teams goalkeepers been sent off, and the other team still can't score.

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