Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Press Release - May 30, 1997

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)

A new report on Encryption Policy in the UK, backed by many civil liberties organizations, was published today by Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties (UK), a civil rights group founded by University of Leeds Law Researcher Yaman Akdeniz.

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The Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) report proposes that UK encryption policy must strike a balance among improved online commerce, crime prevention, and civil rights, and must recognise the history and global nature of encryption policy development. It was published in response to proposals by the UK Department of Trade and Industry to regulate the provision of encryption services in the UK.

The DTI's Consultation Paper `Licensing of Trusted Third Parties for the Provision of Encryption Services' which was released in March 1997 devoted no space to the importance of privacy and anonymity on the Internet. There was no mention of the four years of nearly identical policies proposed by Presidential fiat by the Clinton Administration in the United States. These US policies produced a tremendous outcry from technical members of the encryption community, the business sector, and civil liberties organisations, and are now being overturned by the courts and the US Congress. The Clinton Administration, supporting the desire of US spy agencies to retain their worldwide wiretapping capabilities, is working hard to export these authoritarian policies to the UK, going so far as to designate a `Special Envoy for Cryptography.'

But a balanced view of the issue reveals that centralising the ability to violate privacy and authenticity is a poor strategy for an open society. It provides short-term convenience to ministries while undermining the long-term foundations of a free and self-governing people.

`Spend the time to read the Report; it's succinct, well-researched, and interesting,' said John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA).

Yaman Akdeniz, the head of the Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) group stated that `the DTI Consultation Paper devoted no space to the importance of privacy and anonymity on the Internet. Anonymous speech is very important, as explained in our report, but because it is not a commercial issue, it has been excluded from the content of the consultation paper. This is a sad reflection on the previous government's sense of priorities and the timing of this announcement might uncharitably be construed as an attempt to present a new administration with a policy fait accompli.'

Andrew Oram of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (USA) who has contributed to the report stated that, `We hope the new Labour government will stick to its platform in support of privacy. They should realise that the legislative trend in the U.S. as well as Europe is away from heavy-handed control over encryption and toward a live-and-let-live respect for citizens' privacy.'

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) `First Report on UK Encryption Policy' has been endorsed and supported by 15 organizations from different countries with similar aims:

American Civil Liberties Union (USA) ALCEI Electronic Frontiers Italy CITADEL (EF France) CommUnity UK Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (USA) Derechos Human Rights (USA) Digital Citizens Foundation (Netherlands) Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA) Electronic Frontier FoundationAustin (USA) Elektronisk Forpost Norge (Norway) FITUG (Germany) Fronteras Electronicas Espana (FrEE Spain) NetAction (USA) Quintessenz (Austria) XS4ALL (Netherlands)

Yours sincerely,

Yaman Akdeniz, Head of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)

Contact Information:
Address: Centre For Criminal Justice Studies, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT.
Telephone: 0113-2335033
Fax: 0113- 2335056

Background Information for the Press

Encryption is the science of concealing information and/or proving its authenticity. It has influenced the outcome of wars and diplomacy for thousands of years. Banks use encryption for financial privacy; every ATM machine uses it. Satellite TV systems use encryption to prevent theft of their intellectual property. The ever-increasing cheapness of computer encryption, combined with ever-increasing automated communication, makes encryption vital to the protection of individual privacy, free speech, freedom to assemble, anonymity, and intellectual property in the UK.

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) 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 which has over 30 member organisations worldwide.

Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft, JPL, 4.7.97