We hear that many key players are out of the loop, including the Home Office and security services experts who understand the business implications of communications interception. This is ominous if it means the revival of elements, such as key escrow, ejected from past attempts at IT-related Internet security legislation.
The security forces want to have access to the plain text of any encrypted message sent by any means, especially over the Internet. Few would disagree with the principle. However, this is not always technically possible or effective and many multinationals fear abuse of their commercially confidential encrypted e-mails and transaction data.
It is, therefore, crucial to have informed consultation on the knock-on impact and feasible long-term solutions, especially in a climate where the slightest dissent will be deemed unpatriotic.
What is more unpatriotic? Challenging unsound and unworkable legislation, which could be a lot more effective with informed consultation, or doing nothing? As the E-commerce Bill proved, getting it wrong will, at least, drive the core secure processing operations of banks and financial institutions off-shore. How patriotic is that?
The UK could learn much about effective government/ industry collaboration from the South Africans. Every South African citizen will have a smart identity card, which will act as portal for key government services, plus financial and medical services.
We may find identity cards unpalatable, but the consultation process in South Africa is a model that our own government would do well to emulate.