Rights Groups slam short consultation on RIPA changes

Rights groups are questioning why the coalition government has only allowed a month for changes to the RIPA act.

Some have described the move as “depressing” while others have claimed it’s “an outrageous position to take.”

The Open Rights Group along with No2ID, Privacy International, No2ID, ARCHRights, Justice and Genewatch have written a letter to Pauline Neville-Jones at the Home Office. In it they express their concern at the proposed methods that are meant to answer deficiencies in regulation of private interception of communications, such as took place to tens of thousands of BT customers in the trials of advertising technology from the company.

The guidelines, maintained by BIS, state: “Moreover, deviation from the Code will, at times, be unavoidable when running a formal, written, public consultation. It is recommended that departments be open about such deviations, stating the reasons for the deviation and what measures will be employed to make the exercise as effective as possible in the circumstances.”

The groups have asked to meet with the Home Office to discuss this but this has not been answered. They have also asked that the consultation time be extended. The Home Offive responded to these requests a while back claiming: “The Home Office have now published the consultation, and extended the deadline slightly, to 17 December”.

However they continue to refuse to meet civil society groups  saying: “We are focusing on those parties directly affected by the changes to the extent that those parties would be subject to the civil sanction or directly concerned with it, or are directly responsible, where lawful interception is taking place, for ensuring that consent has been obtained to the interception.”

The ORG said: “In other words, the many thousands of people who have been adversely affected by illegal interception, and those who seek to stand up for their rights, are not “directly concerned” according to the Home Office.”

It described this as “an outrageous position to take.”

And others have also voice their fears. Terri Dowerty director at ARCHRights , told Techeye: “The consultation has not only been given a month but it’s buried deep on the site meaning that people can’t find it.

“The government isn’t even consulting with stakeholders, which is a worrying sign as it was previously agreed they would do so. If it goes through it’ll be a decision based on evidence, not what people want, which makes it a very unfair part of the act.

She added that the fact that there is not a 90 day consultation “sets a dangerous president and is a very depressing sign of the new Government, which promised transparency.”

Phil Booth at No2ID shared the concerns.  He told TechEye: “The fact that they haven’t consulted on the deep packet part of this act is deeply concerning. It’s a very rushed through consultation – in fact you can hardly call it a consultation.

“Are they trying to hush rush it through?

“This is very worrying. DPI goes deeply into a users internet habits. It’s not just looking at an email, it’s a sophisticated method that really digs through personal information and this needs serious consideration.”