Government and industry to work together to fight internet abuse

Government is to take a multipronged approach to tackling the fast growing and increasing sophistication of internet abuse, said...

Government is to take a multipronged approach to tackling the fast growing and increasing sophistication of internet abuse, said new IT minister Mike O'Brien.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, O'Brien, who took over from ex-IT analyst Stephen Timms in last month's government reshuffle, said he is to look at legal and technical solutions, encourage international co-operation and ways of raising awareness of the issues surrounding spam, viruses and phishing.

"Over 67% of e-mails are spam," he said. "The government is anxious to work with industry, users and key groups to find ways of addressing these issues."

O'Brien, a former lawyer, expressed particular interest in exploring the legal route, especially when it comes to blocking child pornography and intrusion through spam. As a result, he will look at how to beef up the powers of the Information Commission, expand privacy and communication law for private users into business, and plans to work closely with the OECD.

"The Information Commission can be more effective," he said. "We are reviewing the powers of the Information Commission particularly regarding enforcement and investigation."

"We are still discussing, but it is not resolved, if we should give the Information Commissioner the power to require Internet Service Providers to disclose the source of rogue e-mails. This would, he said, be through "stop now" orders, based on the existing "stop now" enterprise legislation.

"We want to proceed through co-operation and self regulation rather than regulation," he said. "The law has a role - it should be a limited role, but it is there."

"Privacy and communication law can be effective to control the space for private users. We are now listening to the debate and looking to expand into the business sector," he said. Welcoming debate, he added, "we have no closed mind on it."

O'Brien is keen to work closely at the international level through the OECD.

"The memo of understanding on international collaboration between the US, UK and Australia that the Parliamentary antispam group achieved on 24 September is a good first step to starting to get that co-operation," he said.

"In October 30 antispam groups will attend an Office of Fair Trading meeting to talk about international co-operation over spam - so things are building up."

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