RealTime IT News

UK's IT Minister Unveils Plans for "E-Friendly" Laws

Information Technology Minister Michael Wills has unveiled plans which the UK government believes will make the UK's laws more "e-friendly."

During Thursday's launch of "Promoting Electronic Commerce", a consultation on the draft Electronic Communications Bill, Michael Wills said the draft bill would build confidence in e-commerce by protecting credit card numbers, personal details, and sensitive commercial information.

"The government's aim is to make the UK the world's most attractive centre for e-commerce by 2002," said Wills.

"The Bill will allow business and individuals to use electronic signatures with confidence. I am working in partnership with industry to build trust in providers of electronic signatures and similar services by making self-regulation work."

Among the proposals in the Electronic Communications Bill are measures to ensure the admissibility of electronic signatures in court; measures to ensure that minimum standards of quality and service are met by companies offering cryptography services; and new powers that will allow law enforcement agencies to obtain the surrender of decryption keys.

In the bill there are no requirements for the storage of decryption keys with third parties ("key escrow"), which has been one of the vexed issues plaguing the UK's e-commerce industry.

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng raised some alarms regarding the existing use of encryption, and warned that "criminal investigations are already being hampered by the use of encryption by drug traffickers, paedophiles and terrorists. "

"Giving law enforcement properly authorised access to decryption keys and plain text will help maintain their effectiveness in the battle against serious crime and terrorism," he added.

The consultation period on the draft bill ends on October 8.