Personal tools


CFP'93 - Sobel

CFP'93 - Digital Telephony and Crypto Policy

by David L. Sobel

Legal Counsel
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

In 1989, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) called for open public hearings on cryptography policy. In congressional testimony, we noted that "encryption is the most important technical safeguard for ensuring the privacy and authenticity of all messages that travel along computer networks."

Since 1989, the growing importance of cryptography has become clear. The rapid development of new communications services, the increasing significance of the communications infrastructure, and the clear desirability of strong protection for electronic messages have all made obvious the need for a policy that promotes communication privacy and security. However, this goal may at times conflict with the interests of those agencies involved in communications surveillance.

Recognizing the growing importance of cryptography for computer users across the country, the Computer System Security and Privacy Advisory Board last year called for a national review of cryptography policy. Congressman Jack Brooks, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has also held hearings that considered the new role of cryptography in the information economy. The emerging public debate, however, will be hampered unless federal agencies involved with cryptography issues make full public disclosure of relevant information.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has thus far refused to release internal FBI documents assessing the need for its far-reaching proposal to redesign the digital network to facilitate wiretapping. Likewise, the National Security Agency has withheld information concerning its role in the development of the digital signature standard (DSS) - a purported "civilian" standard proposed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. CPSR is currently pursuing Freedom of Information Act lawsuits in federal court challenging the withholding of information in both cases.

In keeping with its freedom of information efforts, CPSR believes that any comprehensive review of cryptography policy will require the participation of computer researchers, privacy experts and public interest representatives. The implications of cryptography policy are so far-reaching that a discussion between industry and government officials is simply not sufficient. To ensure that the debate is broad-based and fully inclusive, CPSR sponsors an annual Cryptography and Privacy Conference in Washington, DC.

It is CPSR's position that our national interest will best be served by cryptography policies that protect privacy and promote the unrestricted exchange of scientific and technical information.

Return to the CPSR home page.
Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

Sign up for CPSR announcements emails


International Chapters -

> Canada
> Japan
> Peru
> Spain

USA Chapters -

> Chicago, IL
> Pittsburgh, PA
> San Francisco Bay Area
> Seattle, WA
Why did you join CPSR?

It was time to support the cause.