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Who Holds the Key? – A Comparative Study of US and European Encryption Policies

Authors: Sarah Andrews

Published: June 2000

URL: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2000_2/andrews/

Tags: 2000s E-Commerce EPIC Europe Human Rights

Abstract: With everyday transactions now being carried out electronically, people need to trust that their private communications are not intercepted or altered as they make their way across global networks. Encryption is currently the only reliable means of securing the confidentiality of such communications and can help citizens and businesses defend themselves against fraud, electronic vandalism and the improper disclosure of confidential information. However, because of its unique ability to conceal data, encryption may also be deployed for illegitimate purposes. This prospect has urged law enforcement agencies and governments to call for restrictions on its use and development. Privacy advocates and business interest groups resist any attempts to limit encryption arguing that to do so would unfairly compromise the privacy of individuals and jeopardise the development of electronic commerce. This paper looks at the tension between the two sides to this heated debate and studies how law makers in the US and Europe have chosen to meet the challenge of regulating this area.