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US to free 128-bit crypto for export

Announcement due later today

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The US government will later today announce plans to relax the controls the country has long imposed on the export of strong data encryption technology, a White House spokeswoman has told US newswires. Of course, that could imply little more than reducing the list of nations to which strong encryption may not be exported. The tally of countries to which it is illegal for US software firms to send encryption technology includes the likes of Libya and Iraq. That said, the spokeswoman certainly implied that the announcement will centre on a loosening of the restrictions on 128-bit encryption technology. Encryption at that level of complexity is commonplace on US e-commerce sites, but both Netscape and Internet Explorer, the world's two most common Web browsers, can only be sold overseas with weaker, 40-bit encryption. The Clinton administration may have decided that such a limitation has placed an unnecessary limit on the US' ability to become an e-commerce centre for the whole world, not just domestic consumers. According to the spokeswoman, Attorney General Janet Reno, Commerce William Bill Daley, Deputy National Security Adviser Jim Steinberg and Deputy Defence Secretary John Hamre and will unveil the plans this evening. ®

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