Germany liberates crypto usage

Privacy is right of every citizen, says German government

The German government has leapt ahead of the UK's administration to improve the country's viability as a base for e-commerce. Yesterday, the Federal German Government stated it has no intention of limiting the availability of strong encryption among its citizens. All Germans have a right to privacy, and that includes online communications, the government said. Indeed, the ruling party even said it will encourage the use of encryption technology to help raise citizens' awareness of security and privacy issues. Addressing the concerns of law enforcement agencies, the government said that the situation would be closely monitored over the next two years to determine if the widespread availability of strong encryption software really does have an impact on criminal behaviour and national security. That's in contrast to the UK's more cautious approach. Last week, the government admitted it was dropping key escrow requirements from its own crypto policy and that Police requesting access to online data would need a more senior say-so before appropriate warrants were issued. But for all that, it was clear that there were still real concerns over whether this kind of technology should be widely available. Certainly the UK's approach takes a rather more patrician 'do our subjects really need this' attitude, compared to the German 'our citizens have a right to it' stance. The German approach also takes the radical stance of actually attempting to find out whether law enforcement agencies' concerns are justified. In the UK, it's not hard to take the view that government has assumed they are. As civil liberties groups have pointed out, criminals will, if necessary, use strong encryption whether it's legally available or not. That arguably makes a mockery of any legal framework, so why bother tearing your hair out trying to devise a 'one size fits all' crypto policy? That's presumably the thinking behind Germany's move, and a similar approach being taken by the French government. ® See also UK crypto law cover for industrial spookery Encryption is not a loaded gun, UK gov't told UK unveils proposed crypto law

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