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Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission whether hon. Members and their staff are (a) permitted and (b) able to install Pretty Good Privacy encryption software on their computers; and what support PICT provides to hon. Members’ offices in this regard. (258379)

Members and their staff do have the rights necessary to install their own software on their parliamentary computers. Members are responsible for the licensing and maintenance of any software that they install and, as the conditions of supply provide, PICT reserves the right to remove any software that is found to interfere with the proper operation of the hardware concerned, or the parliamentary network. This applies to encryption software. However, extra caution is needed with this type of product since, by its nature, it can prevent access and therefore could severely limit PICT’s ability to provide support after it has been installed.

PICT has recently completed an evaluation of encryption software and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) was found to be incompatible with Parliament’s current version of VPN (remote access) software. Therefore, this product is not recommended for users of that service. As part of the evaluation PICT has identified another product that can be deployed to Members’ loaned machines by PICT at no cost to Members. The software can also be acquired by Members at their own cost, if they wish to have it installed on machines that they have purchased through PICT.