NEWS:Conditions Added To Encryption Measure

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Subject: NEWS:Conditions Added To Encryption Measure
From: Jyothi Kanics (jkanics@igc.org)
Date: Thu Jun 24 1999 - 08:15:00 EDT


Conditions Added To Encryption Measure

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) - A House panel voted on
Wednesday to block exports of computer scrambling technologies if they
will be diverted to aid drug
trafficking, sexual exploitation and organized crime.

The House Commerce telecommunications subcommittee approved adding the
categories to a list that
already included terrorist or unauthorized military use despite some
members concerns that it
represented yet another effort to block scrambling technologies.

``The Mafia uses automobiles to make their getaways...we don't want to
ban automobiles,'' said Ed
Markey of Massachusett, the senior Democrat on the panel.

Nevertheless the changes were approved 19-4 before the subcommittee
backed legislation allowing
conditional exports of scrambling products that are similar to products
already on sale by non-U.S.
companies.

The government would have 30 days to make a technical review of export
proposals.

Data scrambling, or encryption, has become an increasingly important way
to secure sensitive business
information with the growth of global communications and commerce done
over the Internet.

U.S. law enforcement and national security agencies, fearing encryption
will be used by criminals or
terrorists to hide their nefarious activities, have pushed to maintain
strict controls.

But many lawmakers, backed by high-technology companies, want to ease
current restrictions to
ensure U.S. companies can compete with foreign encryption manufacturers.

Under current rules, U.S. companies generally may not export products
with software ``keys'' longer
than 56-bits, while cutting edge encryption uses keys of 128-bits or
more. Stronger products with longer
key lengths are allowed to be exported to companies in a few industries
like banking and health care.

The Commerce subcommittee backed substitutes to parts of the encryption
reform bill authored by
Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte and approved by the Judiciary Committee
in March.

The changes included:

- establishing a National Electronic Technologies Center to allow
industry and law enforcement
agencies to access and exchange information on data security
technologies,

- prohibiting the government from using its procurement contracts to
promote domestic use of a
particular encryption technology or decryption key,

- requiring studies of the trade in encryption products and the effect of
encryption on law enforcement.

An amendment offered to prohibit export of encryption keys longer than 56
bits to China was defeated
in a voice vote.

Also defeated was an amendment that would have set criminal penalties for
failing to decode
information for a court, a move that could have violated protections
against self-incrimination and
forced third parties such as Internet service providers to have backdoor
keys to encrypted data.


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