Home secretary Jack Straw has announced plans to allow the police to intercept Internet email and wireless communications, to help the police keep pace with technology savvy criminals.
In a speech to launch the Interception of Communications in the UK Consultation Paper, Straw said the current rules on interception are outdated and prevent police from solving as many crimes as they could.
The current Act allows police to apply to the home secretary for warrants to intercept communications sent by post or phone, but modern carriers such as ISPs and private are not included in the 1985 Act.
The proposals include the creation of a single legal framework to regulate the interception of all networks - public and private, mobile phones and pagers and interception of email.
"Interception plays a crucial role in helping law enforcement agencies combat drug trafficking, terrorism and other serious crime," said Straw. "It often provides the vital intelligence or the crucial piece of the jigsaw in solving such crimes. But in recent years their capability has come under threat - sophisticated criminals and terrorists have been quick to exploit a revolutionised communications industry and dated legislation on interception."
The interception of communications on private networks will be heavily regulated to ensure that users' privacy is respected and they have a means of redress if their communications are intercepted illegally, added Straw.
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