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…