14th June, 12:11 am Jun 14th

Post Office To Steam Open Your History File [from stand.org.uk]

One of the more extreme powers the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) handed out two years ago let government agencies obtain "traffic data" without a judicial warrant.

Traffic data is best described as the writing on the envelope of a message, instead of its contents. It can be the list of phone numbers you have called in the last six months. Or a full list of Websites you have visited. Or the times you log on, and from where. Or who you e-mail, or what programs you've downloaded, or what newsgroups you read. Or the position of your cellphone last Tuesday at five.

Because the risk of abuse of this power (there's no judicial oversight - all that's needed is the permission of a suitably high-powered boss), those who could wield it were strictly limited. Only the police, Customs and Excise and the secret services were allowed access to traffic data in the original act.

Not any more.

On Friday, the Home Office petitioned parliament to add a vast array of organisations to that list. If their passes, everyone from the DTI, any local authority, the Food Standards Agency, the Home Office themselves (of course), and staggeringly enough, Consignia. The final entry in the list says that "A Universal Service Provider within the meaning of the Postal Services Act 2000" has the same power as the secret services to read your traffic data. There's only one USP in Britain right now, and that's the provider previously known as the Royal Mail.

If the idea that the fricking Post Office has access to your web logs (access which would cost a competitive company millions, and would probably get them investigated by the Data Protection people), let alone every minor apparatchik on the block, you might want to kick up a fuss about this. It's due to appear before MPs on June 18th, and the Lords a little after.

This was posted on Friday 14th June, 2002 at 12:11 am Pacific.

Read more posts from June 2002.

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