01 July 1998

TRADE AND INDUSTRY secretary Peter Mandelson, speaking at a London press conference, promised swift legislative action to 'liberate electronic commerce and make it safer'. However, to the chagrin of his audience, Mandy declined to provide boring details like what, how and when. Instead he contented himself [if not his listeners] with vague platitudes such as 'I’m pushing against an open door on this. It is very high up on my agenda, and I have established some powerful allies' However, those in the know expect legislation to include the introduction of ‘digital signatures’, which enable Internet users to verify their identity online. It is also likely to cover ‘cryptography’, the process by which e-mails and other digital data are scrambled so that they cannot be intercepted and read by hackers or fraudsters. It is thought likely that the practical administration of decryption and other such measures would be handed to a 'trusted third party', possibly the Post Office. [Maybe Mandy should offer the mooted 49% ‘privatisation’ stake in the PO to Microsoft? Watch this space!]