01 August 1998

THE GOVERNMENT has backtracked on the much-criticised first draft of its Electronic Communications Bill, abandoning the controversial proposal for ‘trusted third parties’ - approved organisations such as the Post Office that would hold in escrow the encryption keys of UK-based internet traders. The revised bill adopts a more relaxed stance on e-commerce in general, although ‘industry leaders’ are said to remain worried at the degree of official access to commercial information. The latest draft still al-lows the police, intelligence services and Customs & Excise to demand a company’s e-keys without a warrant. The Bill gives legal status to electronic signatures and allows trade and industry bodies, for example the CBI, to manage a voluntary register of organisations approved to verify the authenticity of e-signatures