Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act

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Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 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.

The RIP Act was introduced to clarify the powers that government agencies have when investigating crime or suspected crime. It is not specific to the world of computing but was introduced partly to take account of changes in communication technology and the widespread use of the Internet.

There are five main parts of the Act. The most relevant to computing are Part 1 which related to the interception of communications, including electronic data, and Part 3 which covers the investigation of electronic data protected by encryption. In simple terms, it gives the police and other law enforcement agencies the right to intercept communications where there is suspicion of criminal activity. They also have the right to decipher these data if they are encrypted, even if this means that the user must tell the police how to decrypt the data.

It also allows employers to monitor the computer activity of their employees; for example, by monitoring their email traffic or tracking which websites they visit during the work time. This raises a number of issues relating to civil liberties.