Why RIPA is flawed

Greg Callus’s excellent post dissects in documented detail some of the problems with the RIPA regulatory mechanism – and why therefore simply extending the range of data that can be accessed under RIPA would be extending the range of data that can be accessed without proper control.

In particular:

Sometimes, there isn’t time for a written request [for access to communications data about someone] because of an imminent threat to life and limb, and so the Urgent Oral procedure kicks in – the SPoC will normally be rudely awoken by a police officer explaining they have (eg) an urgent terrorism/kidnapping situation, and they need a notification to be sent to the CSP urgently. This happened over 31,000 times last year, up from around 21,000 times the year before, and around 87% of police forces were good or satisfactory in their post-haste record keeping which is a statutory requirement if there isn’t paperwork at the time.

How many of these tens of thousands of urgent oral requests went unrecorded? I can’t tell you, because the very presence of an oral procedure with a less-than-perfect score for record-keeping means that there could be any number of applications for private Communications Data that have never been logged.

How can the oral authorisation of interception (without warrant) on this sort of scale possibly be within the intention of Parliament?

[These requests are a burden on communications providers], and they are compensated by the public purse. I’m sure the illicit ‘pings’ ordered by news editors would have looked entirely innocent to the CSPs, and probably would have been billed back to the police force, or the Secretary of State in the normal way.

The irony of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal is that if you’re a taxpayer, you probably helped pay for those exclusives.

Read Greg’s post on RIPA, pinging and more here.

And you can sign Julian Huppert’s petition against Big Brother online snooping here.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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4 Comments

  • Stuart Mitchell 7th Apr '12 - 11:28am

    “The irony of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal is that if you’re a taxpayer, you probably helped pay for those exclusives.”

    The other irony is that those NOTW hacks who were sent to prison were convicted of offences under… RIPA. Without RIPA, their actions would have been entirely lawful.

  • Andrew Shuttlewood 7th Apr '12 - 12:50pm

    @Stuart Mitchell

    Previous to RIPA was the Interception of Communications Act 1985

    “(1)Subject to the following provisions of this section, a person who intentionally intercepts a communication in the course of its transmission by post or by means of a public telecommunication system shall be guilty of an offence and liable—
    (a)on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum;
    (b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine or to both.”

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/56/section/1/enacted

    (Note, link is to enacted – the law was obviously mostly replaced by RIPA)

  • Why can’t these judges use an electronic system to give their yay or nay? Encrypted email for example. Or it would be technologically feasible to record the phone conversation where the case is discussed and permission granted.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Apr '12 - 10:21am

    @Andrew
    Though it is not clear that the ICA would have covered mobile communications voicemail (see http://www2.lse.ac.uk/humanRights/articlesAndTranscripts/2011/KlugIntercepComms.pdf).

    One of the reasons RIPA was brought in was to cover then-new forms of communication (in much the same way that the government now wants to extend RIPA to cover more on-line activity).

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