December 4th, 2009 at 21:28 UTC by Richard Clayton
There was a discussion a little while back on the UKCrypto mailing list about how the UK Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act came to be so specifically associated in the media with terrorism, when it is far more general than that ( see for example: “Anti-terrorism laws used to spy on noisy children” ).
I suggested that this “meme” might well be traced back to the Home Office website’s quick overview text which used to say (presumably before they thought better of it):
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) legislates for using various methods of surveillance and information gathering for the prevention of crime including terrorism.
Well, I’ve just noticed another source of memes (which may be new, since Google are continually experimenting with their system. or which may have been there for simply ages, unnoticed by me at least).
If you do a Google search for the RIP Act such as this one, then the top hit is
Huzzah! that’s where I’d like to go…
… but just wait a moment before clicking! Look at the text under the clickable link where you usually see an extract from the web page (so that you can determine which of the links is the best one to head off for).
This text currently says:
Provides for the interception of user logs and e-mails of suspected criminals by the security and intelligence services.
which is almost entirely, but not quite, wrong!
The dmoz directory is also rebranded as the Google Directory. Hence, one assumes, this makes it easier to incorporate into search results.
The relevant dmoz category is Regional : Europe : United Kingdom : Government : Intelligence Services : Legislation.
The entries (to save you looking) are:
- Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Provides for the interception of user logs and e-mails of
suspected criminals by the security and intelligence services.
- Terrorism Act 2000
Act detailing the legal measures that are available in the
prevention of terrorism.
- Interception of Communications Act 1985
Report presented to parliament that deals with the Secretary of State’s power to issue interception warrants at the request of the intelligence and security agencies.
- Security Service Act 1989
Report by the Security Service Commissioner, which examines the Secretary of State’s powers to issue, renew, and cancel warrants. In addition, too investigating cases referred to the Commissioner by the Security Service Tribunal.
So the titles of the third and fourth entries are wrong (these are reports made under the Act, not the Acts themselves), and the descriptions are only approximately correct (and only vaguely the English as she is written).
The dmoz people have a link so that you can volunteer to edit this part of the Directory. Given the way in which my words would end up at the top of the Google ranking, I am very tempted to chip in and help!
I expect I could write something just as approximately correct, and that Ambrose Bierce would have been entirely proud of !