Parliamentary Committee Condemns E-Commerce Bill

The House of Commons Trade and
Industry Committee
Wednesday severely criticised the forthcoming Electronic Commerce Bill, saying that the focus on key escrow has been “a blind alley” that has damaged the UK’s reputation for e-commerce.

Now that the hardline policy on key escrow has been dropped, the Committee in its report
has even questioned whether there is still a need for such a bill.

The Trade and Industry Committee Wednesday released the report in printed form
at 11.30 a.m. and on the Internet at 3.30 p.m. It comes just two days after the London School of Economics proclaimed the UK as a world
leader in e-commerce, with companies such as Tesco and BT showing the way.

An advisor to the government told last night that a “softly,
softly” approach to
the issues surrounding key escrow and key recovery was now the policy being
followed. Even this
has not pleased the Committee, which says in the report that it is
“disappointed that
the government should still hold a candle for key escrow and key recovery
and can foresee
no benefits arising from government promotion of either technology.”

For dealing with computer crime, the report’s authors say that the
government should consider
establishing a special law enforcement resource unit. However, it also says
that the
proposed licensing criteria for Trusted Service Providers were fatally
flawed and were
“not fit to be written into law.” They would, says the committee, be “a
damaging and
embarrassing failure.”

The 400-page report has been published after extensive consultation with
experts, civil liberties groups and law enforcement agencies.

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