Wassenaar: Crypto-Expert Meeting Cancelled

12.11.1998

The USA and other hard-liners are blocking the loosening of export restrictions of cryptographic software, while Finland chooses to go ahead

The latest news about the Wassenaar Arrangement are, that there are no news. The expert meeting on cryptography, planned for mid november, where in a plenary session an agreement should have been prepared, has suddenly been cancelled.

A number of factors contributed to this non-decision, above all the unchanged hard-liner position of the USA, France, Australia New Zealand and Russia, as well as the still unclear position of the new German government.

After Canada had layed out new and more liberal rulings for the handling of export controls in the context of the OECD meeting in Ottawa last month now also Finland has chosen to go its own way and press ahead with liberalisation.

As the Ministry of Trade and Commerce announced Finland would continue to honor existing contracts but recommends to check those contracts on the basis of their actuality and current technological development to avoid unnecessary restrictions of international trade.

The governement also announced a very liberal regime for Finland itself which is in diametral opposition to the position of Wassenaar hard-liners. No obligation for "key escrow" of any kind but on the contrary, individuals and companies are encouraged to use any cryptographic software available on the market including strong encryption. A new law for the protection of privacy is being prepared and should go through the Finish parliament later this year.

Concerning the Wassenaar Arrangements it is completely open how things will continue. A source close to the expert circle raised concerns that it is "completely unclear if anything will be decided at all at the plenary meeting in december. The positions are so far away from each other, that it is very unlikely to have any agreement".

Related article: Wassenaar on the Danube

Erich Moechel is editor of the newsletter q/depesche.

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