Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft
<CUT> Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 01:22 GMT
Encryption debate hots up
Companies like the Royal Mail want to be TTPs without key escrow
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
The UK government has come under renewed fire over its plans to provide a legislative framework for electronic commerce.
The minister responsible for the IT industry, Michael Wills, was ambushed by a show of hands supporting a one-month extension to a consultation deadline, when he spoke at a packed conference on Tuesday.
Mr Wills told a sceptical audience of academics, civil liberties groups and industry experts that the 26-day period allowed for comments on the Electronic Commerce Bill proposals should help people to focus on the issues with greater clarity.
Real solutions for real people
A joint task force of government officials and industry figures were given the same April 1 deadline to come up with an alternative to "key escrow" - a system which would allow law enforcement agencies suspecting serious crimes to unlock encoded data by gaining access to keys lodged with bodies known as Trusted Third Parties (TTPs).
Key escrow has been condemned by civil liberties groups as a threat to the privacy of Internet users. Business leaders have described the proposal as expensive, impractical and likely to drive abroad billions of pounds worth of business in providing secure transactions.