Thought for the day: From Beijing to Whitehall

Will taking the Chinese approach to compliance ensure companies meet new government regulations, asks Simon Moores

Simon Moores  

Will taking the Chinese approach to compliance ensure companies meet new government regulations, asks Simon Moores




Life imprisonment for the possession of internet pornography may seem a little harsh, but then the Chinese government has always had a rather jaded view of the internet.

I’m told, it is busy tweaking Red Star Linux so that the operating system will automatically report any dangerously subversive search expressions, such as “pussy”, “protest” or even “Tibet” to the authorities.

That said, the Chinese government, the Home Office and any other organisation engaged in the people’s struggle against pornography and democracy will be pleased to read that MessageLabs has reported that the volume of pornographic images sent as e-mail attachments is showing signs of decline.

MessageLabs, which I suspect may one day find itself part of the growing Symantec empire, has recorded one pornographic or otherwise inappropriate e-mail for every 4,756 messages sent through its service in the six months from March to August 2004.

In the same period last year, the ratio was one in 1,357 (0.07%). The drop could be explained by business users taking a more proactive approach to the concept of corporate governance and the vicarious liability risks presented through the violation of corporate acceptable usage policies.

With companies increasingly worried by compliance in the lead up to new government regulations, swapping dirty postcards with one’s mates at work may increasingly become a thing of the past, in the private sector at least.

The introduction of compliance officers, in order to comply with the new Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Bill - UK's equivalent of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, will be another move that will cost business money and wrap them in more red tape as they are forced to invest in new processes and technologies to meet the requirements of the bill.

Once again, business is pushed further towards the extreme limits of the UK’s liability culture and is presented with the possibility of severe financial penalties if compliance regulations are not properly met.

For many IT companies, this is good news.

Last week, I was asked by one leading industry player what I thought the opportunities might be for them in developing a portfolio of services to support the new regulations that will spread across security, disaster recovery, identity, records management, policies and all business processes.

In China they already have a model for compliance which works quite well and as we borrowed RIPA, the Regulation for Investigatory Powers Act, from the Russians, I’m wondering whether our new regulations are entirely based on Sarbanes-Oxley or have introduced a mild Beijing flavour to suit the Whitehall mandarins.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies, and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Read more on IT governance