David Woods

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RIPA – The law that stars in Bodyguard

Corporate and Commercial / 14 September 2018

In the current hit TV drama Bodyguard, the Home Secretary has been seen pushing forward a controversial new counter-terrorism bill – RIPA 2018 – which would give the security services unprecedented powers of surveillance.

Pure fiction? Or close to reality?

RIPA 2000 – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 – was enacted by the UK Parliament in July 2000.  It regulates the manner in which certain public bodies may conduct surveillance of and may access a person’s electronic communications.

The public bodies concerned include GCHQ, Defence intelligence and the Security Service – but also in some instances HMRC, local authorities and Trading Standards, who have stated that the use of surveillance is critical to their success. The Act enables the relevant public bodies to do things such as demanding that someone hands over the encryption keys to protected information and monitoring people’s internet activities. They can also require an ISP to provide access to a customer’s communications in secret.

The Act has been the subject of strong criticism with many regarding it as excessive and a threat to civil liberties. A publication by the organisation Big Brother Watch, cataloguing ways in which local authorities are said to have abused their covert surveillance powers, had the title “The Grim RIPA” – which might bring us back to Bodyguard (if we weren’t so conscious of spoilers for those watching on catch-up TV).

With RIPA 2018 starring in Bodyguard and the recent high profile go-live of the GDPR, has there ever been a better time to be a lawyer advising on data protection, internet and privacy issues!

If you have questions, we can help.  Please get in touch.

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