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Friday, March 5, 1999 Published at 12:27 GMT


Business: The Economy

E-commerce 'key' plan shelved

Police want to keep an eye on shady Internet transactions

The UK Government has dropped controversial plans to give law enforcement agencies the "keys" to decipher encoded data, such as e-mails.

But it is warning industry that it has three weeks to come up with an alternative - or the proposal may be revived.

As expected, a consultation paper from the Department of Trade and Industry waters down demands over security.

A task force is being set up, comprising civil servants and industry representatives, to try to come up with another way forward.

Originally the government's proposed E-Commerce Bill contained demands that the "key-escrow" standard be applied to online transactions to give police the "keys" to decode encrypted information travelling over the Internet.

The dilemma faced by government regulators is how it can monitor transactions to keep a lid on electronic crime without stifling business efforts to make the most of this promising new marketplace.

Selling to customers, buying from suppliers and finding new clients via the Internet is expanding at rapid pace in the UK and Europe.

Brake on business

Business groups, especially the computer industry, were strongly opposed to the government standard. They say few business partners and customers would trust encryption when the key had been given to someone else, and criminals would never be inclined to give their keys away at all.

The encoding of electronic transactions is necessary to stop third parties defrauding traders by accessing financial data or obtaining other commercially-sensitive information.

However, to combat criminal transactions and messages authorities need to have an ability to monitor who is sending what to whom.

The National Crime Intelligence Service supports the inclusion of the key escrow standard in the new laws.





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The Economy Contents

In this section

Inquiry into energy provider loyalty

Brown considers IMF job

Chinese imports boost US trade gap

No longer Liffe as we know it

The growing threat of internet fraud

House passes US budget

Online share dealing triples

Rate fears as sales soar

Brown's bulging war-chest

Oil reaches nine-year high

UK unemployment falls again

Trade talks deadlocked

US inflation still subdued

Insolvent firms to get breathing space

Bank considered bigger rate rise

UK pay rising 'too fast'

Utilities face tough regulation

CBI's new chief named

US stocks hit highs after rate rise

US Fed raises rates

UK inflation creeps up

Row over the national shopping basket

Military airspace to be cut

TUC warns against following US

World growth accelerates

Union merger put in doubt

Japan's tentative economic recovery

EU fraud costs millions

CBI choice 'could wreck industrial relations'

WTO hails China deal

US business eyes Chinese market

Red tape task force

Websites and widgets

Guru predicts web surge

Malaysia's economy: The Sinatra Principle

Shell secures Iranian oil deal

Irish boom draws the Welsh

China deal to boost economy

US dream scenario continues

Japan's billion dollar spending spree