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(Fwd) Flash Release: UK PUBLISHES "IMPOSSIBLE" DECRYPTION LAW
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- Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 15:07:47 +0100
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From: "Caspar Bowden" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Ukcrypto \(E-mail\)" <email@example.com>
Subject: Flash Release: UK PUBLISHES "IMPOSSIBLE" DECRYPTION LAW
Date sent: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 12:14:47 -0000
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FLASH - FOR IMMEDIATE USE
FOUNDATION FOR INFORMATION POLICY RESEARCH (www.fipr.org)
News Release Thurs 10th Feb 2000
Contact: Caspar Bowden
Director of FIPR
+44 (0)171 354 2333
UK PUBLISHES "IMPOSSIBLE" DECRYPTION LAW
Today Britain became the only country in the world to publish a law
which could imprison users of encryption technology for forgetting or
losing their keys. The Home Office's "REGULATION OF INVESTIGATORY
POWERS" (RIP) bill has been introduced in Parliament: it regulates the
use of informers, requires Internet Service Providers to maintain
"reasonable interception capabilities", and contains powers to compel
decryption under complex interlocking schemes of authorisation.
Caspar Bowden, director of Internet policy think-tank FIPR said, "this
law could make a criminal out of anyone who uses encryption to protect
their privacy on the Internet."
"The DTI jettisoned decryption powers from its e-Communications Bill
last year because it did not believe that a law which presumes someone
guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent was compatible with
the Human Rights Act. The corpse of a law laid to rest by Stephen
Byers has been stitched back up and jolted into life by Jack Straw"
Decryption Powers: Comparison with Part.III of Draft E-Comms Bill
-- The Home Office have made limited changes that amount to
window-dressing, but the essential human rights issue remains:
(Clause 46): authorities must have "reasonable grounds to believe" the
key is in possession of a person (previously it had to "appear" to
authorities that person had a key). This replaces an subjective test
with one requiring objective evidence, but leaves unaffected the
presumption of guilt if reasonable grounds exist.
(Clause 49): to prove non-compliance with notice to decrypt, the
prosecution must prove person "has or has had" possession of the key.
This satisfies the objection to the case where a person may never have
had possession of the key ("encrypted e-mail out of the blue"), but
leaves unchanged the essential reverse-burden-of-proof for someone who
has forgotten or irreplaceably lost a key. It is logically impossible
for the defence to show this reliably.
HUMAN RIGHT CHALLENGE "INEVITABLE"
As part of the consultation on the draft proposals last year FIPR and
JUSTICE jointly obtained a Legal Opinion from leading human rights
experts (http://www.fipr.org/ecomm99/pr.html) which found that
requiring the defence to prove that they do not posess a key was a
likely breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Mr.Bowden commented, "following the recent liberalisation of US export
laws, as tens of thousands of ordinary computer users start to use
encryption, a test-case looks inevitable after the Human Rights Act
comes into force in October."
R.I.P. RESURRECTS KEY ESCROW BY INTIMIDATION ?
Bowden said: "after trying and failing to push through mandatory
key-escrow, then voluntary key-escrow, it now looks like the
government is resorting to key-escrow through intimidation."
Notes for editors
1. Detailed analysis of the bill will be available on
the FIPR website (www.fipr.org) later today.
2. FIPR is an independent non-profit organisation that studies the
interaction between information technology and society, with special
reference to the Internet; we do not (directly or indirectly)
represent the interests of any trade-group. Our goal is to identify
technical developments with significant social impact, commission
research into public policy alternatives, and promote public
understanding and dialogue between technologists and policy-makers in
the UK and Europe. The Board of Trustees and Advisory Council
(http://www.fipr.org/trac.html) comprise some of the leading experts
in the UK.
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