What with one thing and another, last week, we missed the first speech in the Commons of the new Home Office Minister of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety Liam Byrne
This was in response to a proposed amendment to the Police and Justice Bill, proposing increased penalties under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Part III Investigation of Electronic Data Protected by Encryption etc. Power to require disclosure in cases involving child pornography.
This amendment was withdrawn, after
this promise by Liam Byrne that the Government would come up with similar proposals, following public consultation on a draft statutory code of practice.
The use of encryption is, as the hon. Member for Mole Valley pointed out, proliferating. Encryption products are more widely available and are integrated as security features in standard operating systems, so the Government have concluded that it is now right to implement the provisions of part 3 of RIPA, including section 53, which is not presently in force.
The threat to public safety posed by terrorist use of encryption technology was recognised in section 15 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which increased the maximum penalty for the section 53 offence to five years in a national security case. The Government will therefore publish for consultation a draft statutory code of practice for the investigation of protected electronic data and the exercise of powers in part 3 of RIPA.
We have previously given an undertaking to bring forward proposals in line with new clause 2 in the context of consulting on the implementation of part 3, and we shall shortly begin those consultations. We remain very sympathetic to what the new clause is designed to do, but we want to allow an opportunity for public consideration and comment on the proposals first, before implementing any legislative changes.
The Labour Governemnt has been dithering for nearly 6 years , and has failed to publish this Code of Practice or to Commence the Part 3 powers of this vintage 2000 Act !
We would advise anyone interested in strong Cryptography to lobby the Minister of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety and Members of Parliament before the Home Office publishes its Draft Code of Practice.
The Home Office has a lamentable record on publiic consultations about complicated technological issues, such as the orginal RIPA and on the National Identity Register.
There is every danger that the Home Office will seek to "publically consult" only with "stakeholders" such as the vested interests of the Government , Police and Intelligence Agencies, and to pretend that theseir views are somehow balanced by the vested commercial interests of large Telecommunications and Internet Service Provider companies.
None of these actually represent the interests of the British General Public or even of internet users.
They will attempt to present the Draft Code of Practice as an agreed fait accompli , to be rubber stamped by Parliament.
We need to make sure that our views on Strong Cryptography and Privacy and Security are included in the Draft Code of Practice consultation document before it is actually published:
Please write to:
Liam Byrne MP
Minister of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety
c/o Home Office
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
After 6 years, we predict that the "UK Crypto wars" debate is about to resume, especially since the Identity Cards Act 2006 section 29 Tampering with the Register etc.. (formerly clause 31) which will makes many common uses of cryptography illegal, and punishable with up to 10 years in prison and / or an unlimited fine.