Press Release

Compulsory Licensing of Crypto Technology

The German government will rush through strict regulations for the use of so called cryptography technology.

The German government is going to introduce, with all possible speed, legal regulations for the use of so called cryptography technology. A report ordered by "Staatssekretärsausschuß für das geheime Nachrichtenwesen und die Sicherheit (Council of state secretaries for secret intelligence and security)" concludes that the new telecommunication technologies give rise to "strong pressure for a fast decision". This is reported by the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" in its latest edition. The security authorities warn in particular that extremists and organized criminals are communicating via encrypted phone calls or computer messages. To allow investigators the "possibility of telecommunications monitoring" those experts recommend that all cryptographically protected traffic should be licensed. Systems will only be allowed if the codes are available to authorities when required. Everyone who distributes unlicenced crypto software or hardware will be committing a criminal offence. Even those people who use software freely available from the Internet will be breaking the law and will be considered suspect: "Illegal usage of unlicenced mechanisms" will give authority for "further investigations". This solution - supported by the chancellor and most of the involved ministeries - has some disadvantages, too, as the authors of the study admit: "In order to reach a small circle of people, a large section of the population will be affected in its dealings with personal electronic data." Computer experts doubt that even the strongest regulations will succeed: The Internet permits apparently harmless messages to be sent which conceal encrypted content.

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