American Civil Liberties Union
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
March 4, 1998
The protection of privacy is one of the greatest challenges facing our country today. As leading civil liberties organizations that have worked to safeguard this important right, we have long recognized the importance of technologies such as encryption for the protection of personal privacy.
We welcome the creation of Americans for Computer Privacy (ACP). Our organizations support the efforts of the industry-led ACP coalition to foster an informed public debate on encryption policy, an issue that affects all citizens. We believe that the ACP will be an important ally in the ongoing effort to protect personal privacy in the digital age and we look forward to working together towards a complete and unrestricted repeal of the current controls on the export of strong cryptography and to resist any domestic restrictions on the use of encryption.
These new technologies will make it possible for us to safeguard our most personal information. Whether they seek security for communications about intimate personal matters, medical information, credit card transactions, human rights activities or controversial political opinions, American citizens expect and deserve the right to communicate privately both within the United States and across national borders. Unfortunately, the government seeks to limit our right to use encryption.
We believe that current government encryption policy must change. We led the campaign against the ill-conceived Clipper Chip scheme, which would have placed the keys to encrypted communications in the hands of government agencies. We continue to oppose the funding of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), an FBI-backed law that -- despite the record levels to which law enforcement wiretapping has soared -- would require the telecommunications industry to build enhanced digital wiretapping capabilities into the Nation's telephone system.
The civil liberties community is also pursuing important claims in the courts to preserve the freedom to use encryption. We believe that cases such as Bernstein v. Department of Justice currently offer our best hope for reform of the limitations on encryption.
As civil libertarians, we support two principal goals that must be incorporated into our national encryption policy:
- Repeal of existing U.S. controls on the export of encryption products and technology for everyone, not simply mass-market producers of encryption software; and
- Preserving the right of all Americans to use any encryption product or technique they wish, both domestically and abroad.
Furthermore, we oppose:
- Any government attempts to regulate the domestic use of encryption;
- Legal provisions that would criminalize the use of encryption, such as those in all of the pending legislative proposals;
- Requirements for "key-escrow" or "key-recovery" techniques that would enable government access to private communications or data; and
- Linkages between the issuance of a digital signature or other electronic authentication certificate and the escrowing or registration of an encryption key.
A policy reflecting these goals would ensure the widespread availability of robust and secure encryption products, a result that will be critical for our nation's continued leadership of the information industry and the protection of personal privacy.
We look forward to working with the ACP and its member organizations in support of these objectives.
Return to the EPIC Crypto Page