Australia sets privacy guidelines to protect Public Key Infrastructure

Australia sets privacy guidelines to protect Public Key Infrastructure

The Federal Government Privacy Commissioner has announced the development of new privacy guidelines to prevent the abuse of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technologies.

Warning that the misuse of PKI could compromise online privacy, commissioner Malcolm Crompton said the guidelines will be released in mid-2001 to ensure the technology is not used in the "wrong circumstances".

PKI technology is being implemented across most government agencies as part of the government's commitment to have services online next year.

However, Crompton said users accessing government services need to be confident their privacy is protected. "I will be particularly focussing on appropriate application of the technologies, ensuring that agencies offer anonymous means of doing business with the government when appropriate," he said.

Available options

For example, when buying a book from a commonwealth agency there should be no record of the transaction and options should be available to maintain anonymity.

An International Data Corp (IDC) survey of 779 consumers released last week shows 65 per cent of respondents chose not to make an online purchase in the last six months because of privacy concerns.

The respondents were experienced online shoppers who had made at least one purchase in the past six months. IDC said privacy concerns tied with price as the third most-cited reason for not making an online purchase.

Recognising the impact of privacy concerns on the growth of the Internet in Australia, the Senate is debating privacy legislation now.

Moves are afoot to introduce similar laws in the US where Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairman Robert Pitofsky said this week that 97 per cent of US Web sites collect identifiable information on consumers and fines need to be introduced to enforce a suitable level of privacy.

He said the FTC wants to be the governing agency that enforces a general-purpose online privacy law for US companies.

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