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US Hi-Tech Industry Dislikes Encryption Proposals

28 November 1999

The release by the Clinton administration of proposed changes to U.S. encryption regulations has been met with disappointment by the U.S. high tech industry. Although the Government has proposed the relaxation of the current export restrictions on cryptography products, industry representatives and privacy advocates have said that the changes don't go far enough as significant controls would remain in place.

The export restrictions currently in place are the result of opposition by U.S. law enforcement agencies to the free distribution of cryptography products without Government agencies having access to their keys. While the proposed changes will ease licensing controls on retail software products, they do not go as far as Vice President Al Gore had originally promised.

One item on which the Government did keep its promise to the industry was the reversal of its position on open (public) source code, which under the proposed changes will be subject to the same treatment as retail products. But the major source of concern by industry groups about the proposed new regulations is the lack of clear definitions and restrictions on products that are sold to government agencies, including telephone and other semi-government utilities.

The head of industry lobby group Americans for Computer Privacy, Ed Gillespie said "Two months ago we were looking at a clean lifting of export restrictions. Now we are looking at a complicated mass of regulations." A lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, David Sobel, said the proposed changes did not constitute 'decontrol' and would be more complex to administer because the proposed new regulations lift license and review requirements for consumer products, but still requires Commerce Department reviews in some circumstances.


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