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UK Minister Calls for Crackdown on ISPs that Intercept Private Customer Emails

Posted: 03rd Mar, 2011 By: MarkJ
internet padlockA former UK Labour party Minister (MP), Lord West, has called for a crackdown on broadband ISPs and internet email hosting firms that abuse Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) style technology to snoop on private customer emails without consent.

In particular the BBC reports that some providers, such as freemail operators, have used similar techniques to inject adverts into private messages, which in fairness is also used to support the services "free" status.

Labour Peer, Lord West, said:

"This is something I think is important for the nation. Giving private companies the right to go and look into people's e-mails is something I find rather unhealthy.

If, as a minister, I wanted to look at someone's e-mails I would, quite rightly, have to seek the permission of the home secretary. But these companies want the right to go into people's e-mails and look for key words without anyone's permission."

Most internet access providers, which we know of, do not appear to be doing this. However, it is more commonplace in the freemail and hosted email industry. According to the Home Office, "[It's] currently an offence to intentionally intercept communications without lawful authority - this includes the interception of e-mails." In reality some groups have accused the police of being less than effective at tackling such problems.

The Executive Director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), Jim Killock, said:

"It's clear the police will ignore all but the most blatant abuses, and very few if any problems will ever get to court. A regulator is meant to issue advice, consult with industry and make sure rules are being observed: not wait until the worst abuses brings furious citizens knocking on their door."

The UK government is at least looking at extending their existing powers. Under the proposed changes the Interception Commissioner would be able to deal with consumer complaints about private companies. At present they can only tackle complaints against government snooping. Fines could be imposed upon those who flout the law.
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