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The East is Red

Life imprisonment for the possession of Internet pornography may seem a little harsh but then the Chinese government has always had a rather jaded view of the Internet and is, I’m told, busily tweaking Red Star Linux, so that the Operating System will automatically report any dangerously subversive search expressions, such as “Pussy” “Protest” or even “Tibet” to the authorities.

That said, the Chinese government, The Home Office and any other organisation engaged in the people’s struggle against pornography and democracy will be pleased to read that MessageLabs have reported that the volume of pornographic images sent as email attachments is showing signs of decline.

Message Labs, who I suspect may one day find itself part of the growing Symantec empire has recorded one pornographic or otherwise inappropriate email for every 4,756 messages sent through its service in the six months from March – August 2004.

In the same period last year, the ratio was one in 1,357 (0.07 per cent) so there is a drop which might be explained by business users, with the exception perhaps of the Department of Work & Pensions, taking a more proactive approach to the concept of corporate governance and the vicarious liability risks presented through the violation of corporate acceptable usage policies.

With companies increasingly worried by compliance in the lead up to new government regulations, swapping dirty postcards with one’s mates at work may increasingly become a thing of the past, in the private sector at least.

For larger companies, having spent the last two years populating the Guardian newspaper’s jobs page with advertisements for diversity officers, - the modern equivalent of a Soviet political officer - the next wave to surf is that of the corporate compliance officer, in order to comply with the new Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Bill. our UK equivalent of the US's Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which is intended to avoid the kind of auditing scandals witnessed at Shell, Enron and most recently Parmalat.

The introduction of compliance officers, a hybrid, CFO/CTO appointment, will be another move that will cost business money and wrap them in more red tape as they are forced to invest in new processes and technologies to meet the requirements of the Bill. Once again business is pushed further towards the extreme limits of the UK’s liability culture and is presented with the possibility of severe financial penalties if compliance regulations are not properly met.

For many IT companies, this is good news and last week I was asked by one leading industry player what I though the opportunities might be for them in developing a portfolio of services to support the new regulations that will spread across security, disaster recovery, identity, records management, policies and all business processes.

In China they already have a model for compliance which works quite well and as we borrowed RIPA, the Regulation for Investigatory Powers Act, almost word for word from the Russians, I’m wondering whether our new regulations are entirely based on Sarbanes Oxley or have introduced a mild Beijing flavour to suit the Whitehall mandarins.


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