Tom Wills-Sandford, the FEI's Director of Information and Communications Technology last week told Computer Weekly that, irrespective of the civil liberties issues now being debated, the IT industry has yet to find a technical solution to monitor Internet traffic.
Although the FEI has previously warned the Home Office that technical hurdles persist, they had not taken the message on board in the wake of industry concerns over costs to Internet service providers, and worries over civil liberties issues.
Wills-Sandford's warning follows the failure of the latest public consultation meeting, Scrambling for Safety, to bridge the widening gap between Home Office legislators and campaigners. At the event, Home Office minister Charles Clarke refused to budge over concerns regarding a defendant's ability to "prove" that they did not have access to a decryption key if requested by law enforcement officials.
Wills-Sandford insisted that the FEI did not consider it impossible to be able to monitor Internet traffic, but simply that the computer industry has yet to find a way to achieve it. "It is one thing sitting at the end of a network monitoring communications when there is one route where a message could travel. It is something else sitting in the middle of a network when you don't know the route a message can take. It is like sitting in a middle of a snowstorm," he said.
The Home Office is believed to have commissioned a report from consultants to verify the industry's concerns. However, the report is expected to be classified, and so if the industry is to be able to read the report when it is published, a declassified version will be needed.
The UK Government may also find it difficult to persuade US communications specialists such as Nortel and Cisco to make producing specific interception capabilities for the UK a priority when the US have rejected it.