Internet service providers (ISPs) have created a group to spread the word on how to handle sensitive customer data.
The Internet Policy Forum (IPF) met behind closed doors for the first time last week to thrash out a privacy code, the aim of which is to quell fears that ISPs are collaborating with authorities to allow inappropriate access to personal data and email.
Keith Mitchell, chairman of the London Internet Exchange (Linx), said the group hopes to have a draft code ready by June.
"A lot of education is need - even if it is a matter of restating the law in a simple form. The code can provide guidelines for smaller ISPs which do not have the money to check up on the law," he said.
The problem, according to Mitchell, is the lack of clarity provided by the law and the fact that existing legislation such as the Data Protection Act does not take the Internet into account.
"ISPs and users need to know what their rights are," said Mitchell. "The Internet is developing much faster than legislation, so it could be desirable for the code to go beyond the law," he added.
Grahame Davies, group managing director of UK ISP Easynet, who attended the forum, said: "ISPs should have a policy statement on their websites. An explicit statement would make users feel more confident."
Representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Data Protection Registrar were among the 12 attendees at the forum, along with vendors such as IBM, BT and Demon Internet.
Mitchell, however, was disappointment at the low turnout. "I'd like to see more industry representation - especially from activists concerned about civil liberties," he said.
For further stories see 8 April issue of Computing
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