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UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal Receives Hundreds Of Complaints

by Robin Pilgrim, LawAndTax-News.com, London

10 November 2003


Speaking at a Parliamentary meeting last week, Home Office official, Simon Watkin revealed that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (which was established just over three years ago to protect UK citizens from abuses of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) has received some 470 complaints, none of which has been upheld.

Under the terms of the RIPA, various government bodies can gain access to private communications data on individuals, such as information about their internet or mobile phone use.

According to Mr Watkin, the results show that "the complainants either weren't under surveillance at all, or that their communications data was being lawfully intercepted".

However, according to opponents of the Act, and the government's attempts to increase its reach, the results just demonstrate the bias against the privacy rights of UK citizens which is present within the Tribunal.

Although observers have warned that the draft Retention of Communications Data (Code of Practice) Order 2003, which amongst other provisions contains plans to force internet service providers (ISPs) to sign up to a 'voluntary' code of conduct, is likely to represent a significantly increased threat to the privacy of individuals in the United Kingdom, Mr Watkin disagreed.

According to the ZD Net news service, which reported on the Parliamentary meeting on Wednesday, he suggested that allowing more government agencies to access communications data could actually tighten up the system by creating an official code of conduct.

"If the most junior of junior officials at the Trading Standards suspects me of a crime and wants to access my data, he can get it today. I'll be safer if he had to fill in a seven page form and explain it to a very senior manager why he wants that access," the Home Office official explained.


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