One in three companies are failing to audit themselves for compliance with IT legislation, according to a survey of more than 300 company directors. Under section 722 of the Companies Act, directors could be laying themselves open to two years' imprisonment or unlimited fines if their company's IT management falls short in certain areas. But the survey showed that 15% of respondents were blissfully unaware of that risk. Amba Sessions, spokeswoman for the IT compliance division of The Stationery Office (TSO), which conducted the survey, warned: 'All the responsibility for computer-related matters tends to fall on IT managers, whereas it is the directors who are legally responsible for compliance.' Each of the companies surveyed was accredited under quality management standard ISO 9000, and had a turnover of more than £25m. Yet 19% of respondents had no policy for using e-mail or the Internet and 21% did not know whether they were within the law on IT management generally. Some 14% had no policy as regards the Data Protection Act 1998 which comes into force on 1 March 2000, and 30% had none for the Computer Misuse Act 1990. Excuses given for this failure to get a grip on IT included lack of guidance from governing bodies, constant changes in legislation and the rapid pace of IT development. TSO is now offering a remedy in the form of a 'continuous compliance programme', which leads to independent certification. The certification standard currently addresses software copyright, computer misuse and data protection, plus directors' liabilities under the Companies Act. 'We'll be updating the programme in the light of legislative developments such as the new e-commerce Bill,' said Sessions. 'Being in the programme will be a way for companies to keep abreast of these changes.' The programme is currently designed for companies with more than 250 employees, but a version for smaller companies is planned. More details are available at www.itcompliance.co.uk.
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