Since its announcement in April 1993, the
Chip initiative has met with widespread
criticism from the computer industry and the Internet community.
Believing that much of the criticism grew out of the fact that
government agencies would serve as "escrow agents" and hold spare
encryption keys, the Administration has sought to find more
acceptable variations of the key-escrow concept.
Begining in 1994, the administration issued a
series of proposals calling for the development of escrow-based
software (also called "key management" and "key recovery") by
industry. Under the proposals, a spare set of keys would be given to
a "trusted third party" who had been approved by the government and
who would turn over keys in investigations. This software could then
be freely exported to most countries. At the same time, Justice
Department officials has been pressuring international groups such as
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the
European Union to adopt key escrow as a standard.
- U.S. Official Says Key-Escrow Crypto is Inferior. In a
document obtained by EPIC, a high-ranking U.S. official
acknowledges that "key-escrow" encryption is "more costly and less
efficient" than non-escrowed products. See EPIC's press
release for more details.
- Europe Rejects Key-Escrow. In a major blow to U.S.
policy on encryption, the European Commission has issued a
paper that is highly critical of key-escrow encryption
proposals and crypto regulation generally.
- Leading Cryptographers Question Key Escrow. Several
distinguished cryptographers and computer scientists have released
a new report, "The
Risks of Key Recovery, Key Escrow, and Trusted Third-Party
Encryption." The report follows an earlier recommendation of
that the risks of key escrow encryption be considered before key
escrow infrastructures are established. The report concludes "The
deployment of a global key-recovery-based encryption
infrastructure to meet law enforcement's stated specifications
will result in substantial sacrifices in security and greatly
increased costs to the end-user."
- "Key Recovery" -- Clipper 4.0. The Clinton
Administration announced yet another encryption initiative on October 1.
- Netizen article on US efforts
to pressure OECD to adopt key escrow.
- Vice President Gore announced on July 12 continued White
House support for the controversial (and highly unpopular)
Clipper key-escrow encryption plan. Bob Dole issued a statement
criticizing the Administration's encryption policies.
- The National Research Council report on cryptography
criticized current efforts at pushing key escrow stating "The
risks of ecrowed encryption are considerable." Read the NRC
press release and check the NRC site for additional
Working Group on Cryptography Policy policy paper, "Enabling
Privacy, Commerce, Security and Public Safety in the Global
Information Infrastructure" (May 17, 1996).
- Sen. Conrad Burns'
press release criticizing the Administration's policy paper on
encryption policy (May 20, 1996).
- Attorney General Janet Reno called for establishment
of key escrow encryption at the Commonwealth Club in San
Francisco (June 14, 1996).
from 27 House members criticizing the Administration's policy
paper on encryption policy (May 15, 1996).
- The Libertarian Party platform
on key escrow.
statement on NIST key escrow criteria (December 5, 1995).
- Netscape statement
opposing NIST's key escrow plan.
- Business Software Alliance testimony
concerning the Administration's "new" key-escrow proposal -- "the
government is pursuing a 'Son of Clipper' strategy" (September 6,
Notices on Key-Escrow Issued on November 6, 1995.
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
issued a press
release on August 17, 1995, announcing a "new" government
policy on key-escrowed encryption. The agency announced that two
public workshops would be convened to address relevant issues (see
President Gore's letter to Rep. Maria Cantwell in July 1994
indicated that the Administration would explore alternative
responses to written questions submitted by the Senate
Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology and the Law. Includes
discussion of government objectives with respect to key-escrow
- Trusted Information Systems produced a paper in January 1995
Key Escrow" describing software implementations of key-escrow
with non-governmental entities serving as escrow agents.
Last Modified: April 14, 1998
Policy Page | EPIC