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SysAdmins to need a licence from Home Office?

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It seems that barely a week goes by that the Home Office doesn't bring out a new bill that curtails the Internet and those that work in the IT industry.

This week, friend-of-the-people Jack Straw's department has written more legislation regarding anyone that gives advice regarding "security precautions in relation to any risk to property". The idea of the Bill is to bring in a licensing scheme for bouncers, private investigators and wheelclampers but its current wording clearly includes IT security consultants and even plain old systems admin folk.

Since this really can't be the intention of the legislation - it would, after all, be completely unworkable - you have to ask why the Home Office has written it as such. This the fifth or sixth bill we can think of that due to the ambiguous and open terminology, legitimate and untargeted groups have felt the need to complain bitterly. Is it not time a select committee examined the drafting process?

Needless to say, the IT community - which has become very politically aware in the last year - has been on to the Home Office. A Home Office minister said that the plan was not "currently" to include IT folk but when asked by a conservative MP, the minister promised only to "look at" the legislation.

This would normally satisfy people but the IT industry has learnt some harsh lessons about the government's paranoia regarding hi-technology. Caspar Bowden - Internet watchdog and director of FIPR: Foundation for Information Policy Research - always gives good quote and does so again: "In 1999 the government wanted 'key-escrow' - a copy of everyone's encryption keys. The RIP Act 2000 allows seizure of anyone's encryption keys. Do they now want to ban anyone from working with encryption without a license?"

Another piece of legislation that needs to be watched. ®

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FIPR: Foundation for Information Policy Research

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