No rest over RIP: the plot thickens

John Riley


If you don't want the US security services monitoring your business communications, don't use...

John Riley


If you don't want the US security services monitoring your business communications, don't use US-originated encryption devices. And watch out for trapdoors in US application software products, too.

That isn't me scaremongering, but the view of senior people in major UK organisations. Those same people are worried about similar snooping from our own security services, which has been made possible by new legislation over interception of communications - the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill, which I wrote about in this column two issues ago.

I was surprised to get a reaction to that column from the Home Office minister, Charles Clarke, who does not think that, as a result of his policy, organisations are pulling sensitive processing out of the UK.

We assured him they are. The groundswell, off the record, is strong. Others are planning to set up projects abroad rather than in the UK.

The Home Office introduced a raft of good-sense amendments into the most recent, third reading of the Bill, but the jury is still out. Lawyers advising their corporate clients on future liabilities and risks need these amendments enshrined in primary legislation, not debated or diluted in secondary legislation.

The user voice is underrepresented in the various government industry committees, and it is becoming more and more important for IT directors to understand the issues. Users tend to rely for lobbying on their industry associations, which are too slow to appreciate the implications of legislation on IT.

However, there are signs of change. Parliamentary industry lobby group Eurim is an excellent source of information and works hard behind the scenes. Other user bodies, such as Certus and the National Computing Centre are entering the lobby arena.

The core tests for all, as well as promoting awareness, are the representation their user members have on key government committees, and the influence they have with ministers. At present, this influence is lamentably small, and is one reason why Clarke has not understood the true potential impact on the UK economy of his RIP Bill.

Read more on IT legislation and regulation