CCIA Questions Quick Action On New Encryption Bill

BY CCIA Staff
June 17, 1997

(Washington, DC) — The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) is strongly urging Senate Commerce Committe Chairman John McCain to briefly postpone a scheduled mark-up this Thursday of the “Secure Public Networks Act of 1997” (S. 909), so that proper consideration can be given to the measure.

“The complexity of the encryption issue, both legally and technologically, requires a fair hearing on any new legislation,” said Ed Black CCIA President. “After years of successfully raising the level of comprehension about the significance of encryption protection, there is no reason to be hasty when the debate has reached such an important point in the legislative process. The manufacturers, sellers, and end-users of encryption technology need an opportunity to air their views on a new bill before the Committee votes on it.

“To introduce brand new legislation at this juncture which is purported to be a compromise between the necessity of privacy and security and the concerns of law enforcement — without benefit of a committee hearing — would be unwise,” Black continued. “After quick review, the bill appears to have a number of potential problems including the introduction of a domestic key recovery system, complicated issues of liability for third-party key holders, and an approach on export controls which differs greatly from the Pro- CODE bill.

“Companies and individuals at all levels demand security of their computer data. If U.S. companies cannot provide an adequate level of encryption protection, then customers will turn to foreign companies which can.

“The McCain-Kerrey-Hollings bill assumes that other countries will adopt a key recovery infrastructure, even though there is no evidence to date that this will occur. Unless and until that happens, U.S. companies will be placed at a significant disadvantage against overseas competitors; higher levels of encryption will still be available; and law enforcement agencies will not be in any better position to protect our national security interests.

“To this end, CCIA strongly urges Chairman McCain to grant a hearing on the new bill so that thoughtful comments can be provided by all parties and committee members can give the measure the careful consideration it deserves.”

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