Disarray over internet Bill
Sunday 07 March 1999
Following a meeting at 10 Downing Street with Tony Blair on Thursday, industry leaders welcomed the chance to rewrite crucial sections of the forthcoming Electronic Commerce Bill but worried they would not have enough time.
The opponents of current proposals to give law enforcement authorities access to e-commerce, led by the IT and banking sectors, were thrown into further disarray as differences emerged between themselves over the best solution.
The Government confirmed its change of heart on the bill on Friday, after news leaked of the Thursday morning meeting at Downing Street between Mr Blair, Home Secretary Jack Straw, Trade Secretary Stephen Byers, and executives from Microsoft, ICL, Cable & Wireless and the CBI.
The conflict centres on the issue of encryption, once a Cold-War secret but now considered necessary to provide security for transactions and scrambling messages on the internet.
On one side are the law enforcement agencies, represented most visibly by the National Criminal Intelligence Service, and on the other are high- street banks, the Post Office, internet service providers and big IT companies, including Microsoft.
The problem is that powerful encryption is too strong for modern computers to break and denies law enforcement agencies access to electronic information in their fight against serious internet-enabled crime. The solution currently proposed, dubbed key escrow, is to build a back-door weakness into encryption by giving a copy of a person's private encryption key to a "trusted third party" (such as a bank), which will give it to the police on demand of a warrant.
On Friday, DTI minister Michael Wills announced that key escrow, previously a plank of government policy, could be dropped. "Key escrow may not be the best option. We're looking to industry for better solutions," he said.
Mr Wills announced he would set up a joint government-industry taskforce to address the problem but has yet to reveal its composition.
Tim Sweeney, director-general of the British Bankers' Association, said making key escrow a requirement "would have hindered the development of e-commerce in the UK".
But industry is complaining about the short timetable. Nicholas Lansman, secretary-general of the Internet Service Providers Association, said: "The DTI has had three years to get this right; we've got three weeks."
n Daniel Sabbagh is senior reporter for `Computing'.
- 1 If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
- 5 Ryan Gosling posts tribute to 'Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal' creator Ryan McHenry
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...
£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...