Consultation on change to RIP interception definition ("unintentional interception")

Andrew Cormack Andrew.Cormack at
Wed Nov 17 14:50:42 GMT 2010

Sorry to come back to this, but I've been trying to make sense (again, lacking any draft amended text) of what might constitute an "unintentional unlawful interception". And failing, so I hope someone here can help.

The Act defines
"A person intercepts a communication in the course of its transmission by means of a telecommunication system if, and only if, he-
(a)so modifies or interferes with the system, or its operation,
(b)so monitors transmissions made by means of the system, or
(c)so monitors transmissions made by wireless telegraphy to or from apparatus comprised in the system,
as to make some or all of the contents of the communication available, while being transmitted, to a person other than the sender or intended recipient of the communication."

Presumably an "intentional" interception is one where I make the modification or do the monitoring deliberately? So is an unintentional interception one where I do it by mistake, or where I do nothing and it just happens? E.g.
1) postmaster attempts to re-direct a mis-addressed e-mail and puts a typo in the To: address?
2) postmaster does nothing, but a system fault results in all mails coming to him (yes, I've been there)
3) network manager runs a wireless sniffer to check a problem with his own network and picks up a packet from next door?
4) user turns on wifi card and receives packets from lots of wifi networks in addition to his own?
5) network manager uploads latest firmware to a network switch, thereby clearing its memory and turning it (for a while) into a broadcast hub?

All seem to satisfy most of the requirements of the definition, but even a civil penalty seems a bit harsh for most of them...


Andrew Cormack, Chief Regulatory Adviser, JANET(UK)
Lumen House, Library Avenue, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcott. OX11 0SG UK
Phone: +44 (0) 1235 822302

JANET, the UK's education and research network

JANET(UK) is a trading name of The JNT Association, a company limited
by guarantee which is registered in England under No. 2881024
and whose Registered Office is at Lumen House, Library Avenue,
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, Oxfordshire. OX11 0SG

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