European Union sets free export of encryption products

22.05.2000

EU sets encryption free, USA protest

The European ministers of Foreign Affairs are expected to decide monday to lift all barriers to the export of encryption software to countries outside the European Union.

Till now, companies wanting to export encryption products had to ask for permission. The authorities first investigated if the buyer was 'secure'. Intelligence services also investigated the products, which made it possible to copy the keys or demand weakening of the encryption standard as a condition for approval.

Decisions could drag on for months, which hampered the trade in encryption software. Besides that, the European industry has asked repeatedly for secure and good encryption, as a condition to boost ecommerce. They want to develop, use and export their own encryption products, as there is mistrust towards American encryption products which are believed to be weakened by the American intelligence agencies, or have secret backdoors.

According to the spokesman of commissioner Liikanen of the Information Society, secret services still can ask companies to the destination of their export:

'But they can't any longer block the export. Companies are allowed to export their encryption products without any interference of the intelligence community.'

According to the spokesman, France and the UK first opposed to the new rules, but finally agreed that security of electronic communication is vital to the development of e-commerce.

He also affirmed the United States pressured the European Union to withhold the decision. 'But the European Union does not make their policies dependent on the opinion of the United States.' The European Commission welcomed the agreement between the European ministers of Foreign Affairs, as 'security on the internet is becoming more and more important.'

Update: European Union postponed decision on removing barriers to Export of Crypto

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