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Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Net laws 'still allow snooping'
Data stream constable
Police can still watch what you watch on the web, campaigners claim
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Changes to the UK Government's "snooping" Bill have done little to limit the power it gives police to spy on citizens, say civil liberty campaigners.

Last week, the government announced changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill which it says is essential to fight the criminal use of the internet.

This followed criticism by business leaders, privacy groups and industry groups.

The organisations claimed that the measures in the Bill would place a burden on net companies, stifle the growth of electronic business and damage online rights.

Web watchers

But after close scrutiny of the Bill, privacy watchdog the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) said the changes had left the Bill's snooping powers largely intact.

Caspar Bowden, director of FIPR, said the Bill still allowed police and security forces to conduct widespread surveillance of British citizens.

The main provisions of the RIP Bill only allow surveillance of named individuals.

It asks internet service providers to install a black box that connects to an MI5-run monitoring centre.

But FIPR has found a loophole in section 15.3 of the Bill that lets the security forces to obtain a three-month blanket warrant to look for "any referable factor".

Mr Bowden said the security forces using this blanket warrant would get the right to scrutinise e-mail, browsing histories, faxes and phone calls of any group or individual they wanted.

The Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords but is expected to be passed next week.

News of the loophole was first revealed on technology subscription news service the451.

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28 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Net snooping bill 'harms business'
25 May 00 | Sci/Tech
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