The Electronic Freedom group


  • Elana Davidian
  • Sameeha Hussain
  • Jeffrey Mack
  • Megan Ruedy
  • Ben Steger

    What to prepare for You are preparing a position paper (2 to 3 pages long) for an organization representing the viewpoint of a new subculture whose members believe that widespread and unrestricted use of electronic "stuff" will give us all better lives. They are perhaps more extreme than some traditional civil liberties folks, more attuned to what is possible to do with cryptography, and more willing to discuss the technical shortcomings and features of various policy issues. Sometimes the efforts of these folks seem to have a rather anti-U.S.orientation, declaring that U.S.~policies are rather inferior to those (chosen from, say) policies of Western Europe. These webpages may be useful to you: CDT, EFF, and EPIC. Remark that money is on your side: if folks in the U.S.don't do it, the software will be available easily from people living in lots of other places.

    In your oral rebuttal Be prepared to deal with the accusation of uncaring irresponsibility: spies, terrorists, and criminals of all sorts could be aided by your efforts! An assertion could be made that "good" people will naturally agree with the sort of mild restrictions on e-commerce and communications proposed by (some) governments, since benefits will be gotten by "everyone".

    The written report of the Electronic Freedom group follows.

    As the United States continues to increase its stranglehold on the use of cryptology in the business world, American businesses are more and more in danger of being left behind in the world market. Present US policies are forcing American technologies to be inferior to those of Western Europe. If we examine present policies in Western Europe, we will soon realize that most US policy concerning cryptology is unnecessary and paranoid. By establishing similar policies, we in the United States can place ourselves in the positio n to be at the top of any global market.

    According to Matt Blaze in "Cryptography Policy and the Information Economy", "unless a fundamental change is made in the direction of our cryptography policy, the United Sates' dominance in the emerging `information economy' will ultimately be placed in jeopardy". He sees the future econo my completely dependent on technology and "Cryptography will eventually be embedded in most, perhaps virtually all, advanced communication products and services; it will not be merely a `stand alone' or `add-on' feature as it is today." To US business, this means many of these products will simply not be available, since the US government would have banned its use in the US. In addition to that disadvantage, since these products are communication oriented, these policies will disable American businesses from establishing state-of-the-art communication with its European competitors. This will make these businesses weaker in the market and European competitors will surge ahead of the US in the global economy.

    The United States government hopes to keep up with the global economy and technological advances. Obviously this is impossible, especially when one realizes the utter slowness of the bureaucracy of the US government. For example, US regulations promised "the updated export policy will allow US companies new opportunities to sell encryption products to almost 70 percent of the world's economy." Unfortunately it was a little too slow for the world's economy. They "failed to recognize that 128 bit products have become a worldwide standard for security. They failed to acknowledge that certain individuals and end-users were left without adequate privacy and security".(Dec. 1998 Current Regulations) Not only did the US government impede American businesses from providing an up-to-date product to consumers, many consumers were tricked into purchasing a product that ended up compromising their own security. With situations like these occuring, inevitably consumers will buy from European businesses and American businesses will be forced abroad for their own survival.

    The problems involved in US cryptology policies are incredibly apparent, but one may question what needs to be done to solve this quickly escalating problem. Simply put, the United States government needs to realize that its policies are threatening the United States' position in the global economy and American jobs. It must realize that many of it policies are outdated and, at worst, paranoid. It must realize that personal responsibility has been firmly entrenched in this country since its establishment. American companies represent a huge portion of the world's wealth. Surely they can afford to investigate and buy the best encryption devices in the world. They do not need the government to protect them. Therefore, anything that the US government does to control these companies should not be seen as protection for the company, but control and manipulation from the government. Frankly, the government cannot keep up with technology, nor can it ever hope to control it. The best it can do is give American companies the best opportunity to succeed in the global market and, ultimately, maintain the United States' position in the global economy.

    Maintained by and last modified 10/21/99.