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30 October 2007, 19:46

UK Government rejects Lords' advice on internet user safety

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All the conclusions on personal internet security produced by the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have essentially been rejected outright by the Government. In a response (PDF file) released in the last few days each of the major recommendations made by the Lords has been dismissed out of hand.

Although according to the response document "Government recognises the dangers of complacency", the general tenor of the document is laissez faire, seeming in every case to assert that no change or extension of current action is needed. Particularly worrying is the apparently self-contradictory statement that the Government "do not accept that the incidence of loss of personal data by companies is on an upward path and we do not accept that the Government is indifferent to the problem" in response to the Lords' proposal to tighten controls on management of personal data by e-traders. The Government also rejects the suggestion that the Courts need to become more expert in the technicalities of e-crime. Interestingly, although all the Lords' recommendations are rejected, none is refuted, no evidence being offered by the Government in its response.

However, a couple of important issues are addressed to good effect. Notably the response points out that the blanket legislation against the use or possession of botnets recommended by the Lords could harm research and countermeasures development, and that absolute removal of the "mere conduit" defence for ISPs would conflict with the UK's obligations to comply with European law.

Overall, the Government response has been described by Lord Errol, a member of the Lords Science and Technology Committee who participated in the creation of the original report, as "a huge disappointment ... We heard compelling evidence of substantial amounts of e-crime and we were entirely persuaded that individuals were unable, on their own, to continue to keep themselves secure". Commenting on the Government's inadequate data gathering on e-crime, he concluded "The reply just says that the government 'does not see that there is a need' for this. If you have no idea of the scale of the problem, how can you design solutions?"


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