The UK government has tabled changes to the so-called snooping bill ahead of its third reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday, but the Bill's critics remain unconvinced.
Designed to reassure businesses concerned about the cost of implementing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, the amendments concern law enforcement agencies' powers to demand code keys to encrypted internet communications, rather than a copy of the text.
Of all the G8 western powers, the UK is the only one to demand such access, and business leaders have said this stand-alone position could make it an ecommerce pariah, despite government reassurances about its intentions.
A Home Office spokeswoman said people who suffered loss or damage because of any breach of safeguards would be able to sue the authorities. The proposed legislation requires information gathered through any access to keys to be stored at MI5, the UK's internal security agency.
Another amendment closes a loophole in the complaints mechanism to ensure that an independent tribunal can hear all complaints over disclosure notices unless they were authorised by the Secretary of State, and a third would make it more difficult for non-police agencies to be given permission to demand keys.
Finally, as previously reported, law enforcement agencies will have to notify an independent commissioner within seven days of any demand being issued. Critics of the Bill say this latter change means little unless the commissioner can state how many keys were seized in his or her annual report.
"I would have expected to see more and the above is not enough," Yaman Akdeniz, director of Cyber Rights & Cyber Liberties, told vnunet.com.
"I would have expected to see a provision making those authorities who misuse seized keys having criminal liability, and as far as I understand, this brings only a civil liability. Government access to keys remains undesirable and we will continue to oppose it," he said.
Caspar Bowden, director of internet policy think-tank The Foundation for Information Policy Research, told vnunet.com: "The question still remains [as to] why businesses would bring keys they care about to the UK if they can set up key management offshore and use the internet to operate perfectly well in the UK market?"
Peers on either side of the House of Lords are expected to table further amendments overnight ahead of tomorrow's vote, including those concerning the Advisory Board voted into the legislation last Wednesday.
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