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Encryption is not a loaded gun, UK gov't told

It's time to stop obsessing about crime and free up the Web

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The government is being urged not to view encryption as the IT equivalent of a sawn-off shotgun in the hands of villains using the Internet for criminal activity. Instead, it is being asked to broaden its horizons and consider the wider social and political issues associated with encryption, instead of just being fixated with ecommerce. These are just some of the arguments submitted by the pressure group Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) to the House of Commons Select Committee on Trade and Industry this morning. In the wood-panelled smoke-filled corridors of power, Professor Clive Walker, deputy director of Cyber-Rights, told MPs: "In a democratic society, police powers must be open, workable and fair. "These principles will not be achieved by dealings behind closed doors between the police and Internet Service Providers nor by future wide-ranging legal powers to access private correspondence. "There is insufficient evidence that encryption is the computer equivalent of a sawn-off shotgun and that its users need to be treated as if they were a virtual community of masked villains." His view were echoed by Dr Brian Gladman of Cyber-Rights who said that law enforcement authorities need to overcome their fear of encryption and their desire for solutions that create more risks for society than they remove. "Instead, they need to invest in the development of the expertise needed to remain effective in a future environment where cryptographic information protection will be the norm," he said. ®

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