Starmer dumps doormat?

Peter Fairbrother zenadsl6186 at
Tue Jan 18 17:46:31 GMT 2011

ken wrote:
> On 15/01/2011 17:48, Peter Tomlinson wrote:
>> ...I think that I want
>> something stronger in law, something that responds to the very
>> nature of these voicemail messages (and of emails)
> It seems hard to define the limits of such a law in a way that doesn't 
> make quite normal behaviour illegal.

Here's the actual bit in RIPA:

"...the times while a communication is being transmitted by means of a 
telecommunication system

[and therefore can be the subject matter of interception]

shall be taken to include any time when the system by means of which the 
communication is being, or has been, transmitted is used for storing it 
in a manner that enables the intended recipient to collect it or 
otherwise to have access to it."

Now I am no fan of RIPA, but this seems sensible to me [1]. 
Communications in the system are being protected by law - when the 
message leaves the system it it is up to the recipient to protect it, if 
he wishes, but by then it is in his possession, not in the possession of 
the system.

If, after the recipient has received a copy, there is a copy left in the 
system, that copy should still be protected by law. And it mostly is.

I'd suggest that the bit from "in a a manner" onwards should be deleted 
- it doesn't matter why the copy is still in the system, it should still 
be protected by law.

Another part of RIPA says that you can only intercept a message by doing 
things to the system. If a copy of a message is outside the system, 
nothing you do to look at that copy should involve doing anything to the 
system, so it won't be interception.

The infamous doormat btw is when the communication leaves the system - 
and that is what Lord Bassam actually said; it has passed the doormat 
_because it has left_ the system.

There are some more clues in RIPA, or rather around it, about how far 
this is meant to go - for instance the explanatory notes strongly 
suggest that messages stored in a pager are still to be considered to be 
in transmission, and whether or not they have been read has no bearing 
on that.

It's a very short step from there to saying texts stored in mobile 
phones are in transmission even when read ; and not too far a step 
further to suggest that emails in computers are as well - *but* only 
insofar as the computer forms or formed part of the system by which the 
communication was transmitted.

So if a repairman looks at an email in your inbox, it's interception. If 
he looks at the same email on your home folder, or on a backup copy, it 
probably isn't.

And that's about where RIPA itself draws the the line - though where the 
Police and Courts think the line is is often a different matter.

[1] in RIPA's legal context - RIPA's legal context on the other hand 
sucks ..

-- Peter Fairbrother

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