October 29th, 2007 at 14:54 UTC by Richard Clayton
At the end of last week the Government published their response to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Report on Personal Internet Security. The original report was published in mid-August and I blogged about it (and my role in assisting the Committee) at that time.
The Government has turned down pretty much every recommendation. The most positive verbs used were “consider” or “working towards setting up”. That’s more than a little surprising, because the report made a great deal of sense, and their lordships aren’t fools. So is the Government ignorant, stupid, or in the thrall of some special interest group?
On balance I think it starts from ignorance.
Some of the most compelling evidence that the Committee heard was at private meetings in the USA from companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Verisign, and in particular from Team Cymru, who monitor the “underground economy”. I don’t think that the Whitehall mandarins have heard these briefings, or have bothered to read the handful of published articles such as this one in ;login, or this more recent analysis that will appear at CCS next week. If the Government was up-to-speed on what researchers are documenting, they wouldn’t be arguing that there is more crime solely because there are more users — and they could not possibly say that they “refute the suggestion [...] that lawlessness is rife”.
However, we cannot rule out stupidity.
Some of the Select Committee recommendations were intended to address the lack of authoritative data — and these were rejected as well. The Government doesn’t think its urgently necessary to capture more information about the prevalence of eCrime; they don’t think that having the banks collate crime reports gets all the incentives wrong; and they “do not accept that the incidence of loss of personal data by companies is on an upward path” (despite there being no figures in the UK to support or refute that notion, and considerable evidence of regular data loss in the United States).
The bottom line is that the Select Committee did some “out-of-the-box thinking” and came up with a number of proposals for measurement, for incentive alignment, and for bolstering law enforcement’s response to eCrime. The Government have settled for complacency, quibbling about the wording of the recommendations, and picking out a handful of the more minor recommendations to “note” to “consider” and to “keep under review”.
A whole series of missed opportunities.