Thursday, 22 November 2007

Animal rights activists forced to hand over computer passwords

Now I don’t normally have much time for animal rights activists. Many of them seem to be more like people haters, than animal lovers.

However Tom Pain’s quote serendipitously posted yesterday eloquently points out why I and everybody else, should be concerned about their rights.

Earlier this month, some 30 animal rights activists are reported to have received letters from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Hampshire requesting they hand over the passwords to decrypt data on seized computers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

The PCs were seized in raids carried out in May 2007. Section 49, covering demanding keys only came into law on 1 October 2007, so presumably the authorities held onto the machines until they could use the Act and didn’t expect the activists would garner much sympathy in any case.

This Act effectively removes the right of silence from anyone who has something intensely private, or incriminating in any way on their computer, even if it is nothing to do with what is being investigated. It effectively forces a person to incriminate themselves and lays them open to a ‘fishing expedition’ on pain of two years imprisonment.

Another possibly even more disturbing part of the Act is section 54, a gagging order preventing the recipient telling anyone about the demand, thus presumably preventing them from making a fuss about it.

Putting recipients of the order in a similar position families who have had their children taken by social services who are gagged from defending themselves or complaining.

Not only that, it prevents anyone else, who subsequently may become aware of it telling anyone. In this case no such order was made, but if it had been it would presumably be an offence for the BBC to report on it or indeed for me to post on it.

The state will argue that they need these draconian powers to protect us from Terrorists, Paedophiles and Serious Crime. Is it really worth paying the price of seeing our freedom and rights eroded away by the state, piece by piece, to gain a marginal and possibly illusory increase in physical security?

Folks it’s not just the Terrorists, etc. you need to be afraid of…


Surreptitious Evil said...

Yes, noted and warned against endlessly both during the original passing of RIPA and during the more recent negotiations regarding the Code of Conduct for Part III. This is horrid legislation and the CoC does not make it either better or clearer.

But, at the moment, it appears that they have not been served a Section 49 notice and the CPS are not (and were not, even at its broadest, IIRC) a "Relevant Public Authority".

And, yes, the gagging orders make a bad law worse.

CFD Ed said...

Surreptitious, I guess the BBC may have got it wrong again. Do you have a reference to your source about the non issue? I would expect the Police would be the investigating body, so they would be the likely source of any eventual order.

In any event I was using the report to remind and highlight the threat the act now poses.

What amazes me is that the public just seems to mentally drift away from this sort of thing and protest/objection just seems to tail off, but that may be more an artefact of MSM reporting.

Surreptitious Evil said...

The original lass's posting to indymedia. I think the original Beeb article was a load of bollocks spake by Mr Ward.

I do agree with you about (Part III at least) of the Act and that, if it does come to a S49 notice, then the police will issue it.

CFD Ed said...

Surreptitious, According to the anonymous post at indymedia, Anonymous received the (not specifically stated but implied) section 49 notice on November the 3rd. It had, according to their report, been sent by Hampshire CPS.

Given that the CPS can effectively direct a police investigation to gather additional evidence, or clarify existing evidence it is not beyond the realms of possibility they may be writing/serving notice on behalf of the police.

Granted it is also not beyond the realms of possibility they may be ‘trying it on’. Anonymous is not clear, but there is the implication that they are referring to section 49 notices.

I am no particular fan of the Beeb and have frequently criticised their reporting, however I can see nothing in the post that substantially disagrees with the main thrust of the BBC report. Given that the Beeb almost certainly have contacts within the animal rights movement I doubt even they would have done a story solely on the strength of an anonymous posting.