(Washington, D.C.) — In a letter to President Clinton initiated by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, more than a dozen associations representing a broad array of the nation’s leading businesses, manufacturers and public interest groups, have united to express their disapproval of the Administration’s policy on encryption.
The letter, delivered today to the White House, implores the President to begin anew to develop an encryption policy which can satisfy global and technological realities, security and privacy concerns of businesses and individuals, as well as the government’s law enforcement and national security interests.
Signed by CCIA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Business Software Alliance, National Retail Federation, American Research Libraries, Securities Industry Association, Software Publishers Association, Information Technology Association of America, Center for Democracy and Technology, Commercial Internet Exchange, Direct Marketing Association, Pro Trade Group, Online Bankers Association, Electronic Messaging Association and National Foreign Trade Council, this letter is the product of an emerging coalition of associations representing high-tech companies, public interest groups and large multinational corporations which have a significant need for strong, unfettered encryption protection to conduct business internationally. Never before have these groups joined forces to express their dissatisfaction with the Administration’s policy.
“This effort demonstrates the breadth of disapproval with the top-down industrial policy being forced upon American businesses,” said John Scheibel, CCIA Vice President and General Counsel. “The Administration has correctly promoted the Internet as a significant tool in international commerce. Yet, the government’s own encryption policy is undermining those efforts by depriving businesses and individuals of the security and privacy they need in order to make commercial use of the Internet.”
The only method of effectively protecting global data communications is by encryption or digital data scrambling. The Administration has offered a temporary and modest relaxation of strict U.S. export controls on encryption products. However, the policy mandates the use of a key recovery system which allows decryption keys to be recovered under court order or under certain circumstances.
CCIA finds this encryption policy to be riddled with problems:
- Key recovery should not be government driven, it needs to be market driven.
- Key recovery undermines the privacy and security of sensitive information.
- Key recovery enjoys no multilateral consensus. Even proponents of the Administration’s policy agree that it will not work absent international agreement.
- Key recovery is an expensive option, for which there is little or no existing market.
“CCIA and the other signatory organizations hope that this letter signals the need to open a broad dialogue on the significant national economic and security interests inherent in U.S. encryption policy,” said Ed Black, CCIA President.
“While acknowledging law enforcement’s desire to stay abreast of exportable encryption products, mandating a key recovery system, when there is not an indication of the market potential, puts U.S. companies in a very risky predicament,” Black continued. “Furthermore, the Administration has compounded the impact on businesses and customers by granting export licenses in six-month intervals. Under this system there’s no assurance to anyone that a product they buy today will remain available in the future.”
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.