Police compromise on IT staff porn concerns

IT professionals who encounter child pornography during the course of their work will be protected from prosecution, providing...

IT professionals who encounter child pornography during the course of their work will be protected from prosecution, providing they can prove to a court that they have acted legitimately, under new government proposals.

An amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill will give IT staff involved in investigating abuses of company systems a legal defence, if they can produce documented evidence that they have followed the correct police procedures.

The move follows an outcry by senior police officers in August over proposals to give IT staff involved in pornography investigations an exemption from prosecution, unless police could prove they had abused their position.

The new amendment, which will include a code of conduct, is designed to strike a balance between protecting IT staff and ensuring paedophiles cannot exploit loopholes in the law, said Stuart Hyde, assistant chief constable of West Midlands Police.

But some IT professionals have expressed concern about the code of conduct. "Although I am heartened that the government has decided to introduce legislation that makes it easier for information security professionals to do their jobs properly, I am dismayed it has decided to implement a reverse burden of proof on them," said Richard Starnes, vice-president of the Information Systems Security Association.

He said he was worried that the Sexual Offences Bill may not offer protection to IT staff involved in civil investigations, for example, to gather evidence to dismiss a member of staff who has abused company internet facilities.

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