vote is next step to securing Internet, electronic commerce
(Washington, DC) — The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) applauds today’s passage of HR 695, the “Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act” by the full House Judiciary Committee. CCIA views this bill as essential to fix the problems plaguing the Clinton Administration’s encryption policy.

“I am pleased that the members of the Judiciary Committee have sent a bipartisan message to the White House that its approach on encryption will not work and is simply bad policy — bad for business, bad for the Internet, and bad for privacy rights,” said Ed Black CCIA President.

“The votes in Congress are a direct result of the understanding that our government’s encryption policy is a lose-lose scenario,” Black said. “U.S. high-tech companies lose because we simply cannot compete on a level playing field with competitors in Europe and Asia which are not handcuffed by such a restrictive policy. And U.S. national security interests lose because anyone who wants strong encryption can get it elsewhere.

“The threat to American businesses is real and it is now. Companies are already looking overseas to obtain stronger encryption protection — without the mandatory key recovery component. It is only a matter of time before even more countries are marketing products with stronger encryption. Given the fact that the U.S. has failed to produce multilateral and bilateral agreements to restrict exports of all non-key recoverable encryption products, terrorists and criminals will know exactly where to go to obtain strong encryption.”

Black continued, “We cannot afford to hand this lucrative market on a platter to foreign competitors. We cannot afford to restrict the right of corporations and Internet users to protect themselves and their privacy. Yet in the name of law enforcement, the current policy does just that. When presented with the choice of purchasing a computer that says ‘FBI INSIDE’ or a product made elsewhere which provides adequate data security, which one do you think consumers will choose?”

CCIA and 16 other associations representing major information technology, retail, banking and manufacturing firms understand today’s realities. In letter to House Judiciary Committee members this week, the groups urged support for the ‘SAFE’ Act — as written– and asked for their support in opposing amendments to weaken it.

Encryption, or digital data scrambling, is the only means of effective data protection. The SAFE bill seeks to reaffirm the unfettered domestic use of encryption, and expand the export of more advanced U.S. encryption products. The bill would also prohibit the government from implementing a mandatory key recovery policy and sets criminal penalties for the illegal use of encryption.

Current U.S. policy offers only a modest relaxation of export rules to those companies which agree to incorporate key recovery into their products. CCIA objects to the government’s key recovery mandate which removes the ability of the private sector to adequately protect itself and opens the door to a multitude of possible invasions of privacy.

CCIA is an association of computer and communications industry firms, as represented by their chairmen, presidents, chief executive officers, chief operating officers and other senior executives. Small, medium and large in size, these companies represent a broad, cross-section of the industry, including equipment manufacturers, software developers, telecommunications and on-line service providers, re-sellers, systems integrators, third-party vendors and other related business ventures.

CCIA member companies employ over a half million workers and generate annual revenues of nearly 200 billion dollars.

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