RIP Bill could cost £34m

02 May 2000 View Comments
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Critics have slammed an independent report into the UK government's proposed communications snooping bill which puts an estimated £34m price tag on the bill's implementation.

The proposed Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill, which has been the subject of much debate, will require ISPs to provide facilities to intercept e-mails - or future electronic communications formats - for surveillance organisations such as the police.

Industry think tank the Foundation for Information Policy Report (FIPR) claimed that the brunt of the £34m implementation would be borne by ISPs and taxpayers.

The government had previously said it may cover "marginal" costs associated with the bill and has denied reports that costs would be high.

The 72-page report, compiled by the Smith Group for the Home Office, recommends three schemes for intercepting traffic on the internet: an "active" scheme, which intercepts only e-mail at an ISP's server, and "semi-active" and "passive" schemes, which are two ways of intercepting all of an individual's traffic, including e-mail, web browsing and voice over IP.

The Smith Group recommends that all ISPs deploy the e-mail interception scheme and estimates that it will cost a large ISP £113,000 in the first year and £44,700 each year thereafter. A small ISP will pay £44,700 in the first year and £19,400 each year thereafter, says the group.

Caspar Bowden, FIPR director, said: "The Government has been telling us for weeks that the million-pound price tags put on interception were just scaremongering.

Now its own consultants think it will be more than £30m, and that's only the beginning, before the next wave of broadband e-commerce is rolled out in 2001, with third generation mobile internet following in 2002.

"It also does not take into account the cost to the taxpayer of processing and safeguarding the intercepted material, or answer the basic question of whether interception will continue to be useful for law enforcement as encryption becomes widely used for personal and business applications."

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