The Clinton administration is sticking with its long-standing policy to let the private sector develop regulations for digital signatures. The decision comes as industry leaders and even members of Congress are calling for greater government involvement in setting standards. The government's stance is forcing some states to enforce their own laws. President Clinton's position was reiterated during testimony at the House Subcommittee on Technology last week by Andrew Pincus, general counsel of the US Department of Commerce. Pincus explained the government's intention to keep regulation of the Internet to a minimum and that its "decentralised nature and rapid technological evolution" were better off in the hands of the private sector. The subcommittee called for testimony from the administration because there is no existing standard for digital signatures, and there is rising disagreement on the subject in various states across the US. Eleven states now have their own widely varying laws on digital signatures and several others are considering introducing their own versions, which experts claim could lead to widespread confusion and an eventual slow down in the development of the Internet as a serious environment for business. Raj Kanthan, senior marketing manager at BT, believes the US must adopt a single standard and stick to it. "Having different laws governing digital signatures in different states is bound to have a negative effect on business over the Internet," he said. "It's encouraging that the US government is maintaining a hands-off approach, but we need a single standard." Comment: There is no doubt that this situation needs some sort of remedy, and fast. It may well be down to the private sector to come up with a single standard, but to speed things along, perhaps a national or even international body should order the industry to come up with a solution within a given time and award the standard to the best solution.
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