Use Invisible Ink

Quite unused to sensible comments on matters of technology from anywhere in the vicinity of Westminster, I was quite surprised to have seen two MPs, from opposite sides of the House, in the space of a single week, actually introduce useful arguments involving IT and its legislation.

First it was Labour MP, Derek Wyatt, who, after reading ‘Thought for the Day’ on the rising Spam plague, told me that he now plans to start a lobby group to campaign against this rapidly growing and seemingly unavoidable menace, responsible for clogging up our in-boxes with the worst kind of intrusive behavior.
Hard on the heels of Mr. Wyatt, comes Tory MP Michael Fabricant, who has reached the welcome conclusion that reading other people’s email, even if they happen to be your employees, just isn’t on.

In the wake of the RIP legislation, a new software industry has grown-up around an unrestricted license to snoop and only last month, a company released a thinly-disguised ‘Trojan’ product, aimed at Hotmail accounts, which for only $99 can invisibly forward all Hotmail and Instant Messaging traffic back to a third-party’s account.

While employers may have a legitimate interest, in very special circumstances, to intercept private email correspondence or even telephone calls, I believe that the emphasis has swung too far towards giving business ‘Carte Blanche’ to trawl at will. Personal privacy is a concept which has become increasingly threatened under this government and a new survey has revealed that one in five companies now monitors employees on a daily basis. Such news makes me increasingly apprehensive over the speed at which we appear to be embracing a ‘Big Brother’ society, a worry which is obviously shared by Michael Fabricant, who wishes to afford the same protection in law to email as exists for telephone calls and the post.

Whether either MP can exert influence over these two separate problems, is open to question. Spam is a global annoyance and email doesn’t respect EEC legislation, so cutting-off the Spam at source may be an impossible task. The solution can only lie in better and more powerful filtering and whose responsibility, I wonder, should that be?
And as for reading other people’s email, I very much doubt that this government would entertain any legislation that would encourage vigorous debate over the question of personal privacy; in the workplace or anywhere else. If one happens to follow the work of Privacy International or The Foundation for Information Policy Research, then it becomes abundantly clear, that thanks in part to a fear of terrorism and the introduction of new technology, we are losing civil liberties at Internet speed.

So don’t expect any sudden changes in the law. Stay at home, hide under a duvet and write your letters in invisible ink!


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