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Key Escrow systems in Europe?
From: Dave Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 1995 17:01:35 -0500

Posted-Date: Wed, 22 Feb 1995 16:43:19 -0500
From: Antoin O Lachtnain <aolchtnn () alf2 tcd ie>

Those who follow these lists will probably know a little about key-escrow
encryption systems. Briefly for the uninitiated, this is a  kind of
encryption that allows government agencies to decrypt messages if they
believe it is necessary for security  reasons. The most  famous
implementation of such  a system was the 'Clipper Chip' in the  United
States, which now seems to have been abandoned because of public

It now seems that the European Union (EU)  wants to impose a similar
system on this side of the Pond. Details from today's (Wednesday 22
February 1995) Irish Times ('The Information  Society' special report,
page 3, an interview with Martin Bangemann, EU Commissioner for

'Q: It is not illegal to send someone an encrypted traditional letter
and yet, while you acknowledge the commercial need for encryption, why
do you wish  to deny the citizen the same privacy rights as he or she
has traditionally employed?

'A: I agree this is a major issue. Business and the private citizen seek
the right to privacy, including the  times when they are using and
exchanging global information. On the other hand, states have the
traditional needs of law enforcement, which requires them to have
capability for legal intercept. All member states have this legal
requirement. To resolve these two sets of needs, and to acheive balance,
requires political action.

'There is  now a  specific proposal for council decision for the
adoption of "a multi-annual action concerning the establishement of
Europe-wide trust services  for public information services (ETS)". This
is to provide for confidentiality and digital signature for business
and the general public to conform with  principles of  subsidiarity and
the needs to find a balanced solution  with the needs seen by  national
administrations related to public  order and security.

'the underlying point is that today, for the first time, the
technological  capability is there --  for electronic  communication --
to  give  everyone easy access to very powerful encryption for very
little effort --  this is  not true of  letter post -- secure encryption
is laborious and difficult to achieve. It is that which is bringing to
the fore the differing  requirements of personal and business privacy on
the  one hand and law enforcement and national security on the other.' 

Antoin O Lachtnain

Electronic Frontier Ireland.

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