24 September 1998

Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 21:52:14 +0100
To: ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk
From: Dave Bird---St Hippo of Augustine <dave@xemu.demon.co.uk>

"Go-ahead for police to  tap coded email"
Forwarded from "Connected", Daily Telegraph, 24 Sep. 1998

   By Annamarie Cumiskey 

       GOVERNMENT plans to allow the police to "tap"
   electronic communications to combat online crime can
   now go ahead, as the European Union has watered down
   its plan to protect Internet privacy.

   In an attempt to stop a growing number of criminals
   communicating with each other using coded email, Labour
   is preparing new legislation, with the help of police
   experts, to regulate encryption of email.

   In a recent report presented to the EU, the Government
   argued: "Where an encryption key is used for
   confidentiality purposes, it may be necessary for law
   enforcement agencies to have lawful access in certain
   circumstances." The report suggested that access could
   be either overt or covert.

   According to Labour's plans, the manufacturers of
   encryption software produced or sold in Britain can
   voluntarily licence software so that the police, using a
   warrant, can obtain the decoding keys and covertly "tap" a
   suspect's email.

   A European Commission initiative to promote electronic
   commerce in Europe by using encryption to safeguard
   valuable information on the Web almost derailed the
   Government's plan. But Britain and France insisted that
   the EU could not legislate on a national security issue,
   forcing Brussels to water down its plan.

   Britain may have beaten the Commission but its attempt
   to persuade the other EU countries to adopt the same
   type of interception system failed. Last July, EU home
   affairs and justice ministers disagreed with Britain that
   unconditional access to emails is necessary to fight
   cross-border crime.

   The Business Software Alliance insists that encryption is
   necessary to reassure Internet users that their private
   commercial transactions will remain private. But the
   computer industry can no longer depend on the EU to stop
   member states allowing access to electronic transactions.

   Originally, the EU planned to publish a draft directive this
   autumn to allow national police to unscramble emails once
   a court order was granted to obtain the manufacturer's
   decoding key. Instead, member states can now adopt their
   own encryption rules, subject to EU approval.

   According to a Commission official: "There was so much
   opposition from member states, it was very unlikely that a
   draft directive would have been adopted."

    The official explained that member states can now
   legislate on encryption, but may face a European Court
   challenge if the new rules hamper electronic commerce in
   Europe or cross-border encryption software sales.

   The official warned: "National security access to
   scrambled transactions must be in proportion to the
   perceived threat to national security."

   Member states must now find a compromise solution. A
   draft European data protection law awaiting adoption
   obliges member states to protect data to an appropriate
   level. For example, electronic banking transactions will
   require "strong" encryption protection.

   The draft law has forced France to lift its ban on strong
   encryption software and introduce a "key deposit" system,
   allowing the police to unscramble the emails of suspected


Thanks to Irvine Welsh for "Filth," and for creating Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, "one of the most compelling, misanthropic characters in contemporary fiction, and surrounded him in a dark and disturbing and often scaborously funny novel about the abuse of everything and everybody."