The international relaxation of regulations concerning
encryption has largely succeeded. The rise of electronic commerce and the
recognition of the need to protect privacy and increase the security of the
Internet has resulted in the development of policies that favor the spread of
strong encryption worldwide. Governments attempting to develop e-commerce are
recognizing that encryption is an essential tool for transactions, and are
reversing decades old restrictions based on national security concerns. An
increasing number of countries have developed policies, based on the OECD
Most countries in the world today impose no restrictions on the
use of cryptography. In the vast majority of countries, cryptography may be
freely used, manufactured, and sold without restriction. This is true for both
leading industrial countries and for emerging economies.
There are a small number of countries where strong domestic
controls on the use of cryptography exist. These are mostly countries where
human rights command little respect, most notably Russia and China. Many of
these countries place strict controls on the Internet, satellite dishes and
other new communications devices.
There is little international support today for key escrow
encryption. It has been abandoned by most counties and is no longer enforced in
the few countries where laws requiring its use still remain.
A few countries impose “lawful access” requirements that could
compel users to disclose keys or decrypted files to government agencies.
Concerns over the right against self-incrimination found in many legal systems
have led many countries to reject their adoption. Several other countries are
considering bills that would require third parties to decrypt communications
A number of governments are considering proposals that give
intelligence and law enforcement agencies new powers to conduct surveillance,
break into buildings or hack computers to obtain encryption keys and obtain
information. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are also demanding and
receiving substantial increases in budgets. These new powers and budgets raise
concerns about the expansion of government surveillance and the need for public
Export controls remain the most powerful obstacle to the
development and free flow of encryption but they are steadily being relaxed
because of the Internet and demands for secure electronic commerce. The decision
by the United States to liberalize its own encryption export regulations in
January 2000 has had the effect of weakening the position of those who favor
strict controls on cryptography.
This is the third annual review of encryption policies around
the world. This survey was undertaken by the Electronic Privacy Information
Center (EPIC), with the assistance of members of the Global Internet Liberty
Campaign and other experts on encryption policy, to provide a comprehensive
review of the cryptography policies of national and territorial jurisdictions
around the world.
To obtain information for the survey, we sent letters to the
embassies, United Nations missions, government ministries, trade boards, and
information offices of some 230 countries and territories with independent
policy-making authority. These entities were contacted in the belief that
governments themselves are best able to authoritatively explain their policies,
especially on such a technical subject. We patterned our survey after one
conducted in 1989 by the Computer Science and Law Research Group (GRID) of the
University of Quebec, which analyzed the data protection policies and laws of
over 150 countries on behalf of the government of Canada. In our second and
third surveys, we expanded the contacts to include organizations and individuals
in various countries with direct knowledge of encryption and telecommunications
policies. We inquired about five major areas of cryptography policy:
Between the issuance of our first report in February 1998 and
our second report issued in May 1999, the Organization of Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) conducted an inventory of the cryptography regulations of
its member states. We have incorporated those findings in this report as they
best represent current national policies within the OECD member
We also referred to a report prepared by the U.S. Department of
Commerce and the National Security Agency for the Interagency Working Group on
Encryption and Telecommunications Policy, obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of
Information Act. The report, dated July 1995, is titled “A Study of the
International Market for Computer Software with Encryption.” The Commerce
Department and NSA attempted to obtain and analyze copies of the laws and
regulations from as many encryption-producing nations as possible. This document
is mostly historical now.
A 100 per cent response was the goal of this and our previous
surveys. For this survey we discovered that many more countries were familiar
with the issue than had been during the first and second surveys. As a result,
this is the most comprehensive survey to date of encryption policies.
Reported countries have been grouped into three categories
regarding controls on cryptography.
A “Green” designation signifies that the country imposes few
controls on encryption in the country and promotes or has expressed support for
a policy that allows for unhindered legal use of cryptography, such as adopting
the OECD Guidelines. A “Yellow” designation signifies that the country has
significant domestic controls such as requirements for lawful access, excessive
export or import controls in law or have proposed new domestic cryptography
controls. A “Red” designation denotes countries that have instituted sweeping
controls on cryptography, including domestic use controls. Many countries do not
fit neatly into one of the three categories, but may share attributes from two
of the categories. These countries are designated as “Green/Yellow” or
“Yellow/Red” depending on the direction the policies appear to be
Emerging computer and communications technologies have radically
altered the ways in which we communicate. Along with the speed, efficiency, and
economy of the digital revolution come new challenges to the security and
privacy of communications and information traversing the global communications
In response to these challenges, the security mechanisms of
traditional paper-based communications media - envelopes and locked filing
cabinets - are being replaced by cryptographic security techniques. Through the
use of cryptography, communication and information stored and transmitted by
computers can be protected against interception. Until recently, there was
little non-governmental demand for encryption capabilities. Modern encryption
technology - a mathematical process involving the use of formulas (or
algorithms) - was traditionally deployed most widely to protect the
confidentiality of military and diplomatic communications. With the advent of
the computer revolution and recent innovations in the science of encryption, a
new market for cryptographic products has developed. Electronic communications
are now widely used in the civilian sector and have become an integral component
of the global economy. Computers store and exchange an ever-increasing amount of
highly personal information, including medical and financial data. In this
electronic environment, the need for privacy-enhancing technologies is apparent.
Communications applications such as electronic mail and electronic fund
transfers require secure means of encryption and authentication – features that
can only be provided if cryptographic know-how is widely available and
unencumbered by government regulation.
Cryptography can also be used to allow for the anonymous
dissemination of information, such as reports on human rights abuses, and to
ensure that documents of human rights groups are not tampered with or altered
Governmental regulation of cryptographic security techniques
endangers personal privacy. Encryption ensures the confidentiality of personal
records, such as medical information, personal financial data, and electronic
mail. In a networked environment, such information is increasingly at risk of
being stolen or misused.
Government regulation of techniques such as encryption that help
to protect individual privacy may also be contrary to the spirit of
international laws and norms that recognize privacy and the freedom to
communicate in confidence as fundamental human rights. Article 12 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 17 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other international
agreements, and national laws, make clear the importance of privacy protection
for human freedom and civil society.
Many human rights groups currently use encryption to protect
their files and communications from seizure and interception by the governments
they monitor for abuses. These include China, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Haiti,
Mexico, South Africa, Hong Kong and Turkey. Other groups such as Amnesty
International USA and the Tibetan Government-in-exile also use cryptographic
techniques to digitally sign messages that they send over the Internet to ensure
that the messages are not altered in transmission.
Only a few countries around the world restrict the domestic use
of encryption by their citizens. Of the handful of countries around the world
that do, most have strong authoritarian governments.
Most countries that have explicitly rejected controls have noted
the importance of security of electronic information for electronic commerce,
the threats of economic espionage, and the need to protect privacy online. The
1997 OECD Guidelines on Cryptography Policy and the 1998 European Commission
report expressed strong support for the unrestricted development of encryption
products and services. Following their promulgation, Canada, Germany, Ireland,
and Finland announced national cryptography policies based on the OECD
Guidelines, favoring the free use of encryption.
A number of countries explicitly reversed their positions on
domestic controls based on the OECD Guidelines. Most notable of these is France,
which had long restricted encryption, but reversed that policy in January 1999
and announced that people can use encryption without restrictions. In December
1997, Belgium amended its 1994 law to eliminate the provision restricting
Most of the countries that do restrict encryption are either
former republics of the Soviet Union, or are located in Asia, or the Middle
East. The countries include Belarus, Burma, China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia,
Tunisia, and Vietnam. We found no countries in North or South America or Western
Europe that currently restrict domestic use. The United Kingdom is the only
major western power that continues to advocate for controls.
Most of these countries also generally place strong restrictions
– in some cases, such as Burma and Iraq, outright bans – on the use of the
Internet. In many of the countries, the restrictions do not appear to be
enforced. In China, a new regulation requires companies to disclose their
security systems to the national government but few companies are
The rapid growth of worldwide electronic commerce and the lack
of international consensus on restrictions will further isolate these countries
and make it difficult for them to continue these policies. The wide availability
of encryption on the Internet will make it impossible for them to enforce the
laws in any meaningful way without imposing massive surveillance and
Concurrent with the rejection of domestic controls by most
countries is the rejection of key escrow/recovery policies by governments. We
found that there is now no international support for key escrow or key recovery
Key escrow/recovery was a concept promoted by the United States
government whereby users would be able to use strong encryption in their
systems. However, a third party such as a government agency or a specially
authorized company (usually with government ties) would hold the keys and
provide them to a government agency when requested. Escrow was first introduced
in the U.S. in the Clipper Chip in 1993. It was adopted into law by France in
1996 and promoted by the UK government for several years.
The U.S. pressured many countries and international
organizations including as the OECD and Wassenaar to adopt key escrow. The U.S.
Envoy for Encryption David Aaron traveled the world urging countries to adopt
escrow policies. The OECD countries rejected the U.S. pressure and called for
free use of cryptography and respect for privacy.
(i) Key access schemes are considered by law enforcement
agencies as a possible solution to cope with issues like encrypted messages.
However these schemes and associated TTPs raise a number of critical questions
that would need to be carefully addressed before introducing them. The ongoing
discussion of different legislative initiatives in the US is an illustrative
example of the implied controversy. The most critical points are vulnerability,
privacy, costs and effectiveness:
- Inevitably, any key access scheme introduces additional ways to break into
a cryptographic system. More people will know about "secret keys" and "system
designs" leading to higher risks of insider abuse and the TTPs itself can
become target for attacks. These new vulnerabilities are complex and need to
be understood as substantial liability and privacy questions are implied.
- The costs associated with key access schemes can be very high. Until
now, questions on costs and who would bear them have not been addressed by
policy makers. Important cost factors would be the specific requirements put
on TTPs, e.g. response time to deliver keys, storage time for session keys,
authenticate requesting government agency, secure transfer of recovered keys,
internal security safeguards, etc. Furthermore, substantial and unknown costs
would occur through the need for scaleability of key access schemes, i.e.
making it work in a multi-million user environment. Up to now, such systems
have at best been developed for small scale use. The costs to make them work
on an economy of even global wide scale need to be looked at carefully.
- Key access schemes can be easily circumvented - even if, hypothetically
speaking, everyone would be forced to pass through these systems.
(ii) Any involvement of a third party in confidential
communication increases its vulnerability. The main reason for involving a third
party in the management of keys for confidentiality is to allow that party to
make the keys available to other than the two communicating parties, for
example, to law enforcement.
Users may therefore not see many advantages in using TTPs for
confidential communication, and probably not even for stored information.
Regulators would thus need to offer incentives to convince users to use licensed
TTPs for confidentiality purposes, for instance through a "public security
label" or even by introducing a "mandatory scheme". Such a mandatory scheme
would make any publicly available offer of encryption services subject to a
licence that inter alia would demand key escrow/recovery.
The acceptance of such a system remains to be seen, but given
its implied overheads, can not be regarded as an incentive for electronic
commerce. In any case, restrictions imposed by national licensing schemes,
particularly those of a mandatory nature, could lead to Internal Market
obstacles and reduce the competitiveness of the European Industry.
The final blow to key escrow was its rejection by the Wassenaar
Arrangement group in December 1998. The U.S. attempted to gain favorable export
rules for escrow/recovery products to encourage an international market. No
consensus was reached and this plan was rejected. The German Ministry of
Economics announced: “Certain states that had originally demanded special
treatment for key recovery products were unsuccessful in their efforts. The
export of encryption technology will therefore remain possible without the
deposit of keys with the government.”
These international policy developments had a significant impact
on domestic policies in both countries that supported escrow and those that did
not have encryption policies. The most dramatic turnaround was in France, where
Prime Minister Jospin announced in January 1999 that France would scrap its key
escrow system in favor of free use of cryptography and implemented new
regulations relaxing controls in March 1999. Taiwan, which had stated in 1997
that it was planning a key escrow system, reported back in 1998 that it not
longer plans to adopt such a system.
Only a few countries now officially endorse key escrow. Spain
enacted a telecommunications bill in 1998 that endorsed escrow, but it was never
implemented. For many years the UK was promoting a policy that would have
coerced certificate authorities to obtain private keys as a condition of
licensing. It is now using other means to try and attempt to gain keys (see
section below). In the U.S., export control rules that once encouraged key
escrow were somewhat relaxed in 1998 and eliminated in January 2000.
“Lawful Access” and Forced Disclosure of Encryption Keys
Following the rejection of key escrow, a new approach being
considered by many governments is to demand “lawful access” to encryption keys
or plain text. Under this approach individuals would be required to disclose
keys to law enforcement agencies or face criminal penalties for failure to
assist in a law enforcement investigation. So far, only a few countries have
implemented such provisions.
The OECD Encryption Guidelines noted but did not endorse the
lawful access principle. The Guidelines state:
National cryptography policies may allow lawful access to
plaintext, or cryptographic keys, of encrypted data. These policies must respect
the other principles contained in the guidelines to the greatest extent
This was a very contentious issue in the OECD. The OCED
considered and rejected support for the lawful access goal. As a result, this is
the only principle and because that did not state that members “shall” adopt as
At the Denver Summit in June 1997, the G-8 supported access. It
recommended that every country adopt “Lawful government access to prevent and
investigate acts of terrorism and to find a mechanism to cooperate
internationally in implementing such policies.”
Only Singapore and Malaysia have enacted laws that would require
users to disclose their keys or face criminal penalties. In both of those
countries, police have the power to fine and imprison users who do not provide
the keys or the plaintext of files or communications to police.
Similar bills are pending in the United Kingdom and India. In
the United States, Belgium and the Netherlands, bills are pending that would
require third parties to release encryption keys and other information but would
not require a person to incriminate himself.
A number of countries including Ireland, Sweden, Finland, and
Denmark suggested that the government would consider lawful access provisions
following the release of the OECD Guidelines. Thus far, none have adopted it. In
Ireland a draft Electronic Commerce Bill has recently been published which would
force individuals to provide access to plaintext but recommends against forced
disclosure of keys. In Canada, an interministerial committee headed by Justice
Canada is examining possible legislation. Other countries such as Denmark have
decided against adopting such policies.
The Right Against Self-incrimination
Such approaches raise issues involving the right against
self-incrimination, which is respected in many countries worldwide. The
privilege against self incrimination forbids a government official from
compelling a person to testify against himself. It has a long history in law
originally developing from Roman and Canon law and was subsequently adopted by
the Common law.
In the United States, this issue has not been directly addressed
by any courts yet but many legal scholars believe that it would not be
permissible under the 5th
Amendment to the Constitution to force an
individual to disclose an encryption key or passcode that was not written down
Many European legal scholars also believe that requiring
disclosure violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
The European Court of Human Rights has stated that the right
of any "person charged" to remain silent and the right not to incriminate
himself are generally recognized international standards which lie at the heart
of the notion of a fair procedure under Article 6 of the European Convention on
Human Rights. The burden of proof cannot be reversed for the suspect to provide
the requested evidence or prove his/her innocence.
Article 8 of Convention, which protects the right to respect
for private life and correspondence also sets out limits on surveillance that
would affect interception.
In other countries, this concern is also raised. The New Zealand
Law Commission noted recently that on the issue of lawful access, it will be
difficult to compel people to disclose encryption keys:
We note that the difficulty in compelling a person to disclose
the means of decryption, or the plain text of the document itself, will need to
be given considerable thought; as will the question of an appropriate sanction
in the event that disclosure is not made. In that regard, the disclosure of
something held in one’s head is somewhat different in kind to the provision of
DNA samples. Ultimately, any view formed on this issue will need to recognise
that a private key may be held in the memory of a human being, rather than
located in an electronic or paper based record.
In Australia the Walsh Report, written by the former director of
the Australian intelligence agency, also recommended against the “lawful access”
1.2.27 Invocation of the principle of non self-incrimination is
likely to prove an obstacle to efforts by law enforcement agencies to obtain
encryption keys by search warrants or orders made by courts and tribunals.
Another issue is the penalizing of individuals who may not have
access to the keys issued in their name. In many circumstances, an individual
may not be in possession of a key, either because they have lost the key,
revoked it or never possessed it in the first place. Under several of these laws
and pending bills, the users could face jail for being unable to provide the
keys. A group in the United Kingdom illustrated this problem by sending an
encrypted “incriminating” message to Home Secretary Jack Straw after creating a
key in his name. They then destroyed the encryption key.
Increase in Surveillance Budgets
As countries reject restrictions on encryption, they continue to
face pressure from law enforcement and intelligence agencies which demand access
to communications. There have been a variety of approaches taken to resolve this
One trend has been the increased funding of intelligence
agencies to compensate for the perceived loss of intelligence from encryption.
In the United States, a number of new “Net Centers” have been proposed. These
Net Centers would provide technical assistance to law enforcement agents
specifically to break codes and would not be subject to freedom of information
President Clinton also recently has asked for $2 billion for
New Surveillance Powers
In the absence of key escrow, intelligence and law enforcement
agencies in a number of countries have been demanding the ability to use
formerly extralegal approaches to obtain information and encryption keys from
targets. This includes breaking into homes to “bug” computers and legal
authorization to “hack” computer systems to obtain encryption keys.
In December 1999, the Australian Parliament approved a bill
authorizing the Australian Security Organization (ASIO) to obtain warrants to
access computers and telecommunications services “for the purpose of obtaining
access to data that is relevant to the security matter and is stored in the
target computer and, if necessary to achieve that purpose, adding, deleting or
altering other data in the target computer, (b) copying any data to which access
has been obtained, that appears to be relevant to the collection of intelligence
by the Organisation in accordance with this Act; (c) any thing reasonably
necessary to conceal the fact that any thing has been done under the warrant.”
The bill does not mention encryption.
In the Netherlands a law to allow the use of bugging devices in
computers as a means to obtain clear text (Wet Bijzondere
Opsporingsbevoegdheden) was approved in 1999 and went into effect in February
2000. Another bill that would allow the secret service to use hacking techniques
to remotely access computer systems (Wet op de Inlichtingen- en
Veiligheidsdiensten) is also pending. These powers were specifically given to
combat cryptography during investigations.
In the United States the White House proposed the Cyberspace
Electronic Security Act (CESA) in September 1999. Under the bill, law
enforcement and intelligence agencies would be able to compel third parties to
release encryption keys and other information. Technical methods used to obtain
keys can be kept secret from disclosure in court. In addition, the FBI would be
given $80 million in additional funding for its “Technical Support Center.”
Previous versions allowed for secret searches.
Other countries are still developing policies that will give
more powers to intelligence agencies. In France, Prime Minister Jospin announced
in 1999 that as part of France's relaxation of controls, “the technical
capacities of the authorities will be significantly reinforced.” Similarly the
1999 Germany encryption policy states that “the federal government will, to the
extent that it can, support an improvement of the technical capabilities of the
criminal prosecution and security authorities.”
At the urging of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Council of
Europe is also developing a new Convention on Computer Crime that will
reportedly expand surveillance powers and centers for network monitoring. The
convention will require countries to adopt legislation to facilitate wiretapping
of computer networks and compel manufacturers to build in surveillance
These new proposals for new investigative powers raise troubling
questions about surveillance and accountability. Will the agencies granted these
powers be fully accountable to democratic institutions and subject to meaningful
The Role of Export Controls
Internationally, export controls have been the strongest tool
used by governments to limit development of encryption products. However, in the
past several years, there has been a gradual relaxation of export controls,
internationally, especially for software products.
Export controls reduce the availability of encryption in common
programs such as operating systems, electronic mail and word processors,
especially from American companies. The restrictions make it difficult to
develop international standards for encryption and interoperability of different
programs. Countries must develop their own local programs, which do not
inter-operate well (if at all) with other programs developed independently in
other countries. They may not be as secure because of a lack of peer review.
Because markets are smaller, companies and individuals are not as interested in
developing programs because of smaller potential profits.
Some countries have taken advantage of the situation by
promoting the lack of controls in their countries. As Switzerland noted in
response to our 1999 inquiry, “Switzerland will keep its efficient export permit
process for cryptographic goods in order to encourage Swiss exports to increase
their sales and share worldwide while being mindful of national security
interests.” One result of this has been the emergence of small companies in many
countries without restrictions, which produce encryption products. Another
result has been companies, especially American companies, moving their
encryption production divisions overseas to countries with fewer controls, such
The Internet significantly changed the effectiveness of export
controls. Strong, unbreakable encryption programs can now be delivered in
seconds to anywhere in the world with a network connection. It has been
increasingly difficult for countries to limit dissemination, and once a program
is released, it is nearly impossible to stop its redissemination, especially if
it is in one of the many countries around the world with no export controls. In
the United States, export controls were used as a justification to limit the
availability of encryption on domestic Internet sites and thus serve as indirect
domestic controls on encryption.
Many countries have relaxed their export controls on encryption
products, especially software. The United States Government announced in January
2000 that it now allows companies to export most products. It is now likely that
other countries will follow suit.
The Wassenaar Arrangement
The Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) is an agreement by a group of 33
industrialized countries to restrict the export of conventional weapons and
“dual use” technology to certain other countries considered pariah states or, in
some cases, those that are at war. Certain cryptographic products, along with
other technology such as supercomputers and high-level computer security access
software, are considered to be “dual use” in that they can be used for both
commercial and military purposes. The WA replaced the former Cold War-era
Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), a group of 17
countries that placed restrictions on the export of certain technology to
countries of the former Warsaw Pact and other communist states. After the fall
of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union, COCOM became an anachronism, and on
November 16, 1993, in The Hague, COCOM agreed to dissolve itself and to
establish a grouping called the “New Forum.”
A formal agreement to establish the “Wassenaar Arrangement” was
reached at the December 19, 1995, meeting in Wassenaar. The participating
countries agreed to locate the Wassenaar Arrangement Secretariat in Vienna. The
WA is one of four international export control arrangements. The others are the
Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group, and the Missile Technology Control
Regime and are mainly directed against the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction and missiles.
The WA is open on a global basis to other countries that comply
with the export control criteria. To be admitted to the Arrangement, a country
must: 1) be a producer and/or exporter of arms or dual-use industrial equipment;
2) maintain non-proliferation policies and appropriate national policies,
including adherence to international non-proliferation regimes and treaties; and
3) maintain fully effective export controls. Although the Arrangement does not
provide for observer status, an outreach policy is being planned to inform
non-member countries about WA objectives and activities, and encourage such
non-members to adopt WA-compliant national policies on the export of
conventional arms and dual-use technologies, including cryptography.
The Authority of Wassenaar
It is important to note that the WA is neither an international
treaty nor a law. It is merely designed to exchange views and information on
international trade in conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.
Also, participating states commit to adjust their national export control
policies to adhere to the WA Control Lists, but this commitment is discretionary
in nature and not mandatory. Participating states may adjust their cryptographic
export policies through new regulations or legislation.
The WA members largely represent the law enforcement, signals
intelligence, and weapons control sectors of participant governments and have
little appreciation for commercial concerns. The WA maintains that it is not
directed at impeding bona fide commerce and is not directed against any state or
group of states. However, the list of countries covered by a participating
state's own national sanctions varies widely. For example, the United States
imposes sanctions on certain countries through the International Traffic in Arms
Regulations and the Export Administration Regulations, which are supervised by
the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, and State.
The United Kingdom also imposes sanctions on countries, but
its list differs from that of the United States.
Russia maintains virtually no enforceable sanctions on other
countries. The substantial differences between participants on sanctions are an
important weakness in the application of uniform WA export controls.
The WA countries maintain export controls for the items on the
agreed control lists, which are reviewed periodically to take into account
technological developments and experience gained. One such review took place
throughout 1998 and resulted in a change to the cryptography dual-use control
list. The WA announced the revised list on December 3, 1998. Decisions to amend
the Control Lists, as with all WA decisions, are made by consensus.
The WA also facilitates the sharing of export information
between participating states. Countries are required to report transfers or
denials of transfers of certain controlled dual-use items to the other WA
participants. Of particular interest to WA members are denials for export
licenses for sensitive technology. Therefore, the WA stipulates that members
will agree that notification of other members shall be made on an early and
timely basis, preferably within 30 days but no later than within 60 days of the
date of the denial of the license.
The Wassenaar List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
On December 3, 1998, the Wassenaar Secretariat announced that
new cryptography guidelines had been added to the Arrangement. The Wassenaar
Dual-Use Control List now extends to encryption hardware and software
cryptography products above 56-bits. These include Web browsers, e-mail
applications, electronic commerce servers, and telephone scrambling devices.
Other mass-market products, such as personal computer operating systems, word
processing, and data base programs having strengths over 64-bits are subject to
controls for two years. These controls must be renewed and approved unanimously,
otherwise they will be canceled. It appears that participating states were
obligated to establish new export controls over “mass market” encryption
software that uses keys longer than 64-bits. They must also restrict other
symmetric encryption software and hardware having keys longer than 56-bits
(unless a formal export license is issued by the respective national
The Wassenaar countries also agreed to control other software,
such as that used in specific sectors such as banking, insurance and health, at
the 56-bit level. The US and UK governments led an effort to promote key escrow
products but that proposal was rejected by the other countries. According to a
press release from the German Ministry of Economics, “certain states that had
initially demanded special treatment for ‘key recovery’ products have not been
successful. Thus, the export of encryption technology will remain possible
without depositing keys with government agencies.”
The restrictions do not apply to encryption products that
protect intellectual property, such as digital watermarking for items like
videos, cassettes and DVD disks. This exemption is seen as a concession to the
Most importantly, and in what constitutes an important loophole,
the new WA controls did not apply to the “intangible” distribution of
cryptography, including downloads from the Internet.
The December 1998 amendments had a limited effect on the flow of
encryption products. Several countries such as Canada and Germany announced that
they did not plan to impose new strict restrictions on exports of mass-market
software. The Swiss government wrote that “the upcoming minor changes to
Switzerland's export controls on cryptographic goods as a result of the December
changes to Wassenaar will not alter the liberal Swiss Cryptography Policy.”
The Arrangement is scheduled to expire in 2000 and it seems
unlikely to be extended.
The International Evolution of Encryption Policy
Over the past several years, international organizations have
played a central role in the development of encryption policies. These groups
include the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the European
Union, the G-7/G-8, the Council of Europe, and the Wassenaar Arrangement. In all
of these, the United States, with the support of the UK Government, led efforts
to gain international support for restrictions. US Envoy for Cryptography David
Aaron, traveled the world urging governments to support the U.S. positions on
encryption policy. In certain gatherings, especially in those that are oriented
towards law enforcement or military/intelligence issues, the U.S. had some
success. The U.K. Home Office and its Minister Jack Straw have also been calling
for restrictions on cryptography, even while the US began to lessen its support.
The Home Office consistently stresses criminals and terrorists will use
cryptography to hide their activities. Germany and several of the Scandinavian
countries often led opposition to cryptography controls.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
is a Paris-based international body of 29 countries.
In 1996, the OECD began work on cryptography guidelines focusing
on international compatibility. The OECD had previously developed well respected
guidelines on the privacy of personal information and computer security. The
Secretariat recommended that the OECD develop an international framework to
promote the use of encryption.
The U.S. began pressuring the OECD to adopt key escrow as an
international standard. For its encryption deliberations, the OECD changed from
its traditional two year process of consensus to a one year accelerated process
with a “core group” writing the guidelines. At the meetings, the U.S.
delegation, led by the Justice Department, the FBI, and the NSA, lobbied the
committee to endorse key escrow. The US also seconded a Justice Department
lawyer to the OECD to develop the guidelines.
The OECD was severely divided by the proposals. The US position
was supported by France and the United Kingdom. Many of the other
representatives, including the economics and trade representatives from Japan,
Canada and Germany did not favor these efforts. Representatives from the
Scandinavian countries stated that key escrow would undermine trust. Denmark's
representative announced that key escrow would not be included in a nation-wide
card system. Industry representatives wanted to ensure that they would have the
right to adopt any system of their choosing.
In March 1997, the OECD issued its Guidelines on Cryptography
Policy. The OECD recommendation is a non-binding agreement that identifies the
basic principles that countries should adopt in establishing cryptography
policies at the national and international level.
The OECD Cryptography Guidelines state:
- The need for Guidelines emerged from the explosive worldwide growth of
information and communications networks and technologies and the requirement
for effective protection of the data which is transmitted and stored on those
systems. Cryptography is a fundamental tool in a comprehensive data security
system. Cryptography can also ensure confidentiality and integrity of data and
provide mechanisms for authentication and non-repudiation for use in
- Governments want to encourage the use of cryptography for its data
protection benefits and commercial applications, but they are challenged to
draft cryptography policies which balance the various interest at stake,
including privacy, law enforcement, national security, technology development
and commerce. International consultation and co-operation must drive
cryptography policy because of the inherently international nature of
information and communications networks and the difficulties of defining and
enforcing jurisdictional boundaries in the new global environment.
- The Guidelines are intended to promote the use of cryptography, to develop
electronic commerce through a variety of commercial applications, to bolster
user confidence in networks, and to provide for data security and privacy
- Some OECD Member countries have already implemented policies and laws on
cryptography, and many countries are still developing them. Failure to
co-ordinate these national policies at the international level could introduce
obstacles to the evolution of national and global information and
communications networks and could impede international trade. OECD governments
have recognized the importance of international co-operation, and the OECD has
contributed by developing consensus on specific policy and regulatory issues
related to cryptography and, more broadly, to information and communications
networks and technologies.
The Guidelines set out eight basic principles for cryptography
1.Cryptographic methods should be trustworthy in order to
generate confidence in the use of information and communications
2.Users should have a right to choose any cryptographic method,
subject to applicable law.
3.Cryptographic methods should be developed in response to the
needs, demands and responsibilities of individuals, businesses and
4.Technical standards, criteria and protocols for cryptographic
methods should be developed and promulgated at the national and international
5.The fundamental rights of individuals to privacy, including
secrecy of communications and protection of personal data, should be respected
in national cryptography policies and in the implementation and use of
6.National cryptography policies may allow lawful access to
plaintext, or cryptographic keys, of encrypted data. These policies must respect
the other principles contained in the guidelines to the greatest extent
7.Whether established by contract or legislation, the liability
of individuals and entities that offer cryptographic services or hold or access
cryptographic keys should be clearly stated.
8.Governments should co-operate to co-ordinate cryptography
policies. As part of this effort, governments should remove, or avoid creating
in the name of cryptography policy, unjustified obstacles to trade.
The OECD is currently planning to conduct a follow up to the
guidelines in the area of digital signatures. In October 1998, the OECD surveyed
its member countries and found that many have adopted the guidelines. It is now
working on an update to that survey.
The European Union
The European Union (EU) has played a key role in rejecting
restrictions on encryption. The European Commission requires Member States to
report to the Commission any national proposals to impose technical rules for
marketing, use, manufacture, or import of cryptographic products.
The Commission also seeks to dismantle intra-Union controls
on commercial encryption products.
In October 1997, the European Commission’s Directorate-General
XIII, which is responsible for Telecommunications, Information Market and
Exploitation of Research, issued a report that took issue with the United
States’ policy of encouraging key escrow and recovery schemes. The report stated
that “restricting the use of encryption could well prevent law-abiding companies
and citizens from protecting themselves against criminal attacks,” adding that
key escrow systems “would not . . . totally prevent criminals from using these
On the issue of “back door” mechanisms giving law enforcement
and intelligence agencies the right to read the plaintext of encrypted messages,
the report said that if such systems are required, they “should be limited to
what is absolutely necessary.”
The report was sent by the European Commission to the major
bodies of the European Union, including the European Parliament, the Council of
Ministers, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the
However, a European Council Resolution of January 17, 1995,
requires network operators and service providers to provide law enforcement
agencies “in the clear” access to encrypted communications.
The EU also plays an important role in export controls. In 1992,
the European Commission proposed a dual-use regulation as part of the
progression to the free market. Since military exports were linked to Member
States’ national security concerns, control of such exports was deemed to be a
matter for individual states. However, with dual-use goods, it was argued that,
while military uses were of a national interest, their civil use was in the
purview of the European Commission.
Eventually, a compromise was reached. A dual-use regulation was
agreed upon. The basis for the regulation was Article 113 of the Treaty of Rome
and a Maastricht-based Common Foreign and Security Policy Joint Action with a
series of annexes. The EU's Dual-Use Regulation (EC No. 3381/94) contains 24
articles and it entered into force on July 1, 1995. Council Decision No.
94/942/CFSP, with 8 articles and 5 annexes, has been appended to it.
The series of regulations, decisions, and annexes state
- all Member States recognize the same list of dual-use goods (generally
based on the COCOM and Wassenaar lists), destinations, and guidelines
- the majority of dual-use goods may require, at most, only a general
authorization license for shipment between member states (and for favored
destinations outside the Union; Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway, Switzerland,
and the United States). This amounts to EU domestic controls on products
shipped between Member States
- a common level of export control should exist throughout the Union; and an
export license issued in one Member State shall normally be valid for the
shipment of goods from another Member State.
On May 15, 1998, the Commission adopted a Proposal for a Council
Regulation setting up an EU regime for the control of exports of dual-use goods
and technology (COM(1998) 257 final, 98/0162 (ACC)). The proposal calls for a
notification procedure for intra-Community transfers of cryptographic products
instead of the current authorization/licensing scheme. It does not appear to
have been implemented yet.
The Group of 8 (G8) is made up of the heads of state of the top
eight industrialized countries in the world.
The leaders have been meeting annually since 1975 to discuss
issues of importance, including the information highway, crime and
The G8 has been active in discussing encryption policy at the
urging of the United States. At the G8 meeting in Lyon, France in 1996, the G8
agreed to “accelerate consultations, in appropriate bilateral or multilateral
fora, on the use of encryption that allows, when necessary, lawful government
access to data and communications in order to, inter alia, prevent or
investigate acts of terrorism, while protecting the privacy of legitimate
At the Denver Summit in June 1997, the G8 stated:
“To counter, inter alia, the use of strong encryption by
terrorists, we have endorsed acceleration of consultations and adoption of the
OECD guidelines for cryptography policy and invited all states to develop
national policies on encryption, including key, management, which may allow,
consistent with these guidelines. Lawful government access to prevent and
investigate acts of terrorism and to find a mechanism to cooperate
internationally in implementing such policies. “
At the Birmingham, England meeting on May 18, 1998, the G8
adopted a recommendation on ten principles and a ten-point action on high-tech
crime that did not explicitly mention encryption. The ministers announced, “We
call for close cooperation with industry to reach agreement on a legal framework
for obtaining, presenting and preserving electronic data as evidence, while
maintaining appropriate privacy protection, and agreements on sharing evidence
of those crimes with international partners. This will help us combat a wide
range of crime, including abuse of the Internet and other new technologies.”
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an inter-governmental organization
formed in 1949 by West European countries. There are now 40 member countries.
Its main role is “to strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law
throughout its member states.” Its description also notes that “it acts as a
forum for examining a whole range of social problems, such as social exclusion,
intolerance, the integration of migrants, the threat to private life posed by
new technology, bioethical issues, terrorism, drug trafficking and criminal
On September 8, 1995, the Council of Europe approved a
recommendation to limit strong cryptography in their member states. The Council
is not like the European Commission in that it has no statutory authority to
enforce its recommendations. However it is rare for member countries to reject
Council of Europe’s recommendations. The Recommendation of the Committee of
Ministers to Member States Concerning Problems of Criminal Procedure Law
Connected with Information states:
Subject to legal privileges or protection, investigating
authorities should have the power to order persons who have data in a computer
system under their control to provide all necessary information to enable access
to a computer system and the data therein. Criminal procedure law should ensure
that a similar order can be given to other persons who have knowledge about the
functioning of the computer system or measures applied to secure the data
Specific obligations should be imposed on operators of public
and private networks that offer telecommunications services to the public to
avail themselves of all necessary technical measures that enable the
interception of telecommunications by the investigating authorities.
Measures should be considered to minimize the negative effects
of the use of cryptography on the investigation of criminal offenses, without
affecting its legitimate use more than is strictly necessary.
The Council is now working on a draft convention on computer
crime. This directive is being drafted in part by the Computer Crime Division of
the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the Dutch Ministry of Justice, the
draft is prepared by an ad-hoc group of experts of a "limited number of
countries" and chaired by Prof. Kaspersen of the University of Amsterdam. The
time limit for preparing the draft is the end of 2000. A number of non-members
are also represented as observers to the ad-hoc group including the US, Canada,
Japan, South Africa, the European Commission, the OESO, UNESCO and others. No
draft of the directive has been released by the COE but according to the MOJ, it
will require that all signatories require that all telecommunications and
computer network equipment have built-in wiretapping capabilities.
 For more information on wiretapping and other
privacy issues, see EPIC/Privacy International, Privacy and Human Rights 1999
 European Parliament, Science and Technology
Options Assessment (STOA), "An Appraisal of the Technologies of Political
Control", January 6, 1998.
 Campbell D., "Interception Capabilities 2000",
working document for the European Parliament, Science and Technology Options
Assessment (STOA) panel..
 European Commission, "Towards a European
Framework for Digital Signatures and Encryption", COM (97)503.
 Press Release of the German Federal Ministry of
Economic Affairs, December 8, 1998 on Wassenaar Arrangement "Export Control for
Encryption Technology Relaxed: No Forthcoming “Key Recovery” for Crypto
 See R. H. Helmholz,
"Self-Incrimination: The Role of the European Ius Commune", 65 NYU L Rev 962 (1990). See also
L. Levy, Origins of the Fifth Amendment: The Right Against Self-Incrimination
(2d ed. 1986).
 Doe v United States, 487 US 201, 219 (1988),
Justice Stevens wrote in dissent, "[a defendant] may in some cases be forced to
surrender a key to a strongbox containing incriminating documents, but I do not
believe he can be compelled to reveal the combination to his wall safe--by word
or deed.” See Kathleen M. Sullivan, "Privacy in the Digital Age: Encryption and
Mandatory Access" before the Subcommittee on the Constitution Federalism and
Property Rights, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, March 17,
1998; Greg S. Sergienko, Self Incrimination and Cryptographic Keys, 2
RICH. J.L. & TECH. 1 (1996)
<http://www.richmond.edu/jolt/v2i1/sergienko.html>, For the US government
view, see Phillip R. Reitinger, Compelled Production of Plaintext and Keys, The
University of Chicago, 1996 U Chi Legal F 171
 "In the Matter of the Draft Electronic
Communications Bill and in the Matter of a Human Rights Audit for Justice and
FIPR", October 7, 1999.
 See the following judgments of the Court: Funke
v. France, 25 February 1993, Series A no. 256-A, p. 22, ß 44; John Murray v. the
United Kingdom, 8 February 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-I, p.
49, ß 45; and Saunders v. the United Kingdom, 17 December 1996, Reports 1996-VI,
p. 2064, ß 68; Serves v. France, 20 October, 1997, Reports 1997-VI). Our thanks
to Yaman Akdeniz for this information.
 New Zealand Law Commission, “Electronic
Commerce Part Two: A basic legal framework”, November 1999.
 AG Letter Review of Policy relating to
Encryption Technologies (Walsh Report), October 10, 1996.
 See STAND, 'Operation Dear Jack', <
 EPIC, "Critical Infrastructure Protection and
the Endangerment of Civil Liberties", October 1998
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act, Act No.
161 of 1999.