Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Ross Anderson: Confidentially yours

Confidentially yours

Everyone's doing it. Banks, shops, governments, even the British Civil Service--they're all trying to put services online. Unfortunately, e-commerce and e-government are nothing without e- trust. How will you know who you're really dealing with when you buy that holiday or fill in that form online? At Cambridge University, Ross Anderson and his team are trying to create the ultimate instruments of online confidence in the shape of software tools that encrypt information so strongly it can be read only by people who hold the right decoding keys. But, as Anderson tells Ehsan Masood, we'll only get the e-world we want if governments regulate encryption wisely

You say you are not a typical cyberlibertarian. How do you define this term? And why don't you see yourself as one?

Cyberlibertarians tend to see the Internet as leading to the abolition of governments. Their idea is that given the advent of anonymous e-mail, digital cash and so on, the state will no longer be able to support itself by raising revenue through taxation. I don't think this is likely or desirable. Think what England was like when the government didn't really exist: anyone with any wealth or property had to design their house to withstand infantry-strength assault. That's not efficient. National governments and policemen will survive the electronic revolution because of the efficiencies they create.