The UK government has just unveiled the proposed electronic commerce bill, apparently designed to encourage the secure and widespread use of electronic commerce in the UK.

However, on closer inspection, only one part of the bill appears to be related to electronic commerce, which is the provision that electronic signatures will be legally acceptable as a binding signature. The rest of the bill appears to deal with encryption, and key escrow.

Under the terms of the bill, it would be a legal requirement to hand over the encryption key to any encrypted document or file if the police request it. This is an interesting provision, because the penalty for notifying anybody that your communications are being intercepted by the police would be 2 years imprisonment, and you would be assumed guilty unless you could prove otherwise.

Considering that the UK government promised that they had abandoned key escrow some months ago, this looks like yet another turn-aruond in a field that legislators have previously proven their incompetence.

The Guardian has an article discussing the announcement, as does The Register.