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Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)

RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) is a law enacted in the United Kingdom in 2000 to govern the interception and use of electronic communications. It was designed specifically to take account of the growing importance and use of the Internet and the use of strong encryption in electronic communications. RIPA also impacts other legislation, in that it provides a statutory foundation for other techniques that might be used to monitor citizens and their electronic communications.

RIPA includes at least two highly controversial stipulations: first, that individuals or organizations may be compelled by the government (presumably through some writ or subpoena) to disclose keys necessary to decrypt encrypted communications whose content may be suspect or provide evidence of illegal activity; second, that Internet Service Providers should bear the cost of technical systems to assist law enforcement with interception of electronic communications. At present, neither of these stipulations has been put into practice, nor tested in the courts. Based on a 2003 extension to RIPA coverage, however, it may be invoked by a great many legal entities including not only governments at all levels, but also job centers, local councils, and the Chief Inspector of Schools.

This was last updated in February 2008

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