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CR&CL(UK) advises the UK Home Secretary, on the issue of encryp

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Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)

For Immediate Release, February 02, 1998

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) advises Jack Straw, the UK Home
Secretary, on the issue of encryption.

According to a BBC report released on January 30, 1998, the UK Home
Secretary, Jack Straw, is using Britain's six-month EU presidency to
raise awareness of the task facing law enforcement agencies on the
Internet. The EU ministers agreed in Birmingham that such agencies
must have access to the codes used to scramble information. They
warned that unbreakable encryption systems would mean organised crime
could pursue its activities unhindered.

Jack Straw's new initiatives are at odds with what the Labour party
stated in their Manifesto before the May 1997 elections.

"We do not accept the `clipper chip' argument developed in the United
States for the authorities to be able to swoop down on any encrypted
message at will and unscramble it. The only power we would wish to
give to the authorities, in order to pursue a defined legitimate
anti-criminal purpose, would be to enable decryption to be demanded
under judicial warrant."

The Labour Party Manifesto further stated that:

"It is not necessary to criminalise a large section of the
network-using public to control the activities of a very small
minority of law-breakers."

The Department of Trade and Industry published a Public Consultation
Paper, "Licensing of Trusted Third Parties for the Provision of
Encryption Services," in March 1997. The DTI consultation paper
addressed many issues which may have an impact on the use of
encryption tools on the Internet but the issue of whether blanket
escrow of encryption keys presents unique civil liberties dangers is
not addressed. In addition to its refusal to examine the controversy,
the DTI paper is provincial and ahistorical. There is no mention of
the four years of continual proposals for key recovery products by the
US Government, even though their proposals have much in common with
the DTI proposal and clearly inspired the latter. 

According to Yaman Akdeniz of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK),
"The DTI consultation period was rushed and only lasted 2 months. But
we are still waiting since May 1997 to see the results of the
consultation period. We have criticised the outgoing government
because they introduced the key recovery proposals and welcomed the
Labour Party but it looks like politicians do change their minds
without warning or simply bow to pressure. Therefore, we cannot trust

Yaman Akdeniz further stated that, "Although privacy is not recognised
as a basic human right within the UK, Mr Jack Straw should remember
that this will soon change with the recently introduced UK Human
Rights Bill which will incorporate the European Convention on Human
Rights. Of special concern is the protection of privacy of online
users on the Internet. Key escrow, key recovery, and the DTI's
conception of trusted third parties create dangers for private
communications on the Internet."

The current views of Jack Straw and the DTI proposals which were
launched in March 1997 are also in clear contrast with a recently
issued EU communication paper.

The European Commission, in October 1997 published a communication
paper, "Towards A European Framework for Digital Signatures And
Encryption," which in contrast to the UK initiatives and despite years
of US attempts to push the "government access to keys" idea overseas,
finds key escrow and key recovery systems to be inefficient and
ineffective. The EU communication stated that "the European Union
simply cannot afford a divided regulatory landscape in a field so
vital for the economy and society."

"Problems caused by encryption to crime investigation and the finding
of evidence are currently limited, but they may increase in the
future. As with any new technology, there will be abuse of encryption
and criminal investigations will be hindered because data was
encrypted. However, widespread availability of encryption can also
prevent crime. Already today, the damage caused by electronic crime is
estimated in the order of billions of ECUs (industrial espionage,
credit card fraud, toll fraud on cellular telephones, piracy on pay TV
encryption). Therefore, there are considerable economic and legal
benefits associated with encryption."

Further, the EU paper stated that "most of the (few) criminal cases
involving encryption that are quoted as examples for the need of
regulation concern `professional' use of encryption. It seems unlikely
that in such cases the use of encryption could be effectively
controlled by regulation."

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) will continue to campaign against
key recovery and key escrow proposals.

Notes for the Media:

This press release is available at:

See  the Labour Party Policy on Information Superhighway,
`Communicating Britain's Future',

`Towards A European Framework for Digital Signatures And Encryption,'
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the
Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the
Regions ensuring Security and Trust in Electronic Communication
(Adopted by the Commission on 8 October 1997), COM (97) 503, at

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), "First Report on UK Encryption
Policy" is available at

The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights including
article 8 on privacy and article 10 on freedom of expression is
expected to take place following the introduction of the Human Rights
Bill [H.L.], in the House of Lords on 23 October 1997. The UK
Government also launched a White Paper - Rights Brought Home: The
Human Rights Bill, CM 3782, London: HMSO, October 1997. See :

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) 

Mr Yaman Akdeniz
Address: Centre For Criminal Justice Studies, University of Leeds, LS2
9JT. Direct Telephone: 0498-865116, dial (44)498 865116 if you are
abroad. Fax: 0113- 2335056 E-mail: lawya@leeds.ac.uk Url:

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) is a non-profit civil liberties
organisation founded on January 10, 1997. Its main purpose is to
promote free speech and privacy on the Internet and raise public
awareness of these important issues. The Web pages have been online
since July 1996. Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) started to become
involved with national Internet-related civil liberties issues
following the release of the DTI white paper on encryption in June
1996 and the Metropolitan Police action to censor around 130
newsgroups in August 1996. Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)
recently criticised the attempts of the Nottinghamshire County Council
to suppress the availability of the JET Report on the Internet.

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) covers such important issues as
the regulation of child pornography on the Internet and UK
Government's encryption policy. The organisation provides up-to-date
information related to free speech and privacy on the Internet.
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) is a member of various action
groups on the Internet and also a member of the Global Internet
Liberty Campaign (see <http://www.gilc.org>) which has over 30 member
organisations world wide.

Yaman Akdeniz <lawya@leeds.ac.uk>
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) at:

Read CR&CL (UK) Report, 'Who Watches the Watchmen'