The Government was today accused of damaging Britain's reputation overseas through its determination to gain snooping powers over the Net.
Speaking at a briefing on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill in London, Richard Clayton - an "Internet Expert" and employee of ISP Thus - warned that almost everyone in the world connected with the Web knew about the UK Government's plans, and that already "their confidence in our country is being hit".
Clayton told press and Internet industry representatives the Bill needed "a very big knife taking to it", or renaming, as it the term RIP was having a detrimental effect on the UK in the international arena, even though the Bill has yet to get through Parliament. "It is sapping confidence all over the place," he said.
Clayton was speaking at an event for press, Lords and MPs, hosted by Internet body ISPA, to highlight the pressing dangers of RIP - a Bill the Government hopes to make law by October. Speakers included representatives of FIPR, The London School of Economics (LSE) and the British Chamber of Commerce, as well as Lord Cope of Berkeley - a member of the Tory RIP Bill team. All agreed on one recurrent point on the Bill, summed up by ISPA council member Tim Pearson: "It seems there's more that we don't know than we do know."
There were calls for the Home Office to fill in many of the gaping holes still left in the proposed Act - which will force ISPs to fit interception devices to allow email to be monitored - and stop wasting its time replying to media reports.
The British Chamber of Commerce, which said it expected a meeting with Minister Charles Clarke to discuss the Bill within a week, said it wanted clarification on recompensing ISPs for the fitting of interception devices, and on the security of encryption keys once handed over to officials.
However, Lord Cope warned RIP critics they were more likely to get amendments to the Bill than large chunks of it completely changed at this late stage - it is currently going through Committee stage in the Lords. He therefore urged industry representatives to take action and come up with "a list of specifics" regarding amendments they would like to see. ®