13 January 1999

From: "Bert-Jaap Koops" <E.J.Koops@kub.nl>
To: cryptography@c2.net, ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk, cypherpunks@toad.com,
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 15:14:29 MET
Subject: Press release - The Crypto Controversy: no problem

Press release - please spread widely

The Crypto Controversy: no problem

Tilburg, the Netherlands, 13 January 1999

The Dutch government should do nothing about the problem that
cryptography poses to law enforcement. All available options have more
negative than positive consequences. This is the conclusion of

Bert-Jaap Koops in his recently published Ph.D. thesis "The Crypto
Controversy". Although encoding programs potentially leave
law-enforcement powerless to wiretap communications and to conduct
computer searches, there is not a real solution to retrieve the keys
to decipher encoded data. 

Koops, author of the Crypto Law Survey website, conducted a four-year 
research at Tilburg University and Eindhoven University of 
Technology. He analyzed the conflict of interests that cryptography 
poses to society. On the one hand, encryption is crucial for 
information security and for protecting privacy, but on the other 
hand, it enables criminals to escape the scrutiny of law enforcement. 
Governments are trying hard to address this conflict of interests, 
but their proposals for regulation have been controversial. The 
policy debate is polarized, with privacy activists and 
law-enforcement agencies fiercely opposing each other's point of 

To address this crypto controversy, Koops discusses four possible 
solutions: building-in Law-Enforcement Access to Keys (LEAK systems), 
demanding suspects to decrypt, using alternative investigation 
measures, and doing nothing. The first option is flawed, because 
secure LEAK systems are not yet available, and criminals will anyway 
not use crypto which they know to contain a backdoor for the police. 
The second option, demanding suspects to decrypt, yields only very 
limited opportunities, because of the privilege against 
self-incrimination. Alternative investigation measures, such as using 
directional microphones and intercepting radiation from computer 
screens, can provide some leeway for the police if wiretaps lose 
their efficacy, but they are serious infringements of people's 

Koops concludes that, for the time being, the "zero option" 
is preferable: governments should decide upon a policy to do nothing 
about the crypto problem. To meet developments in crime and 
cryptography, this policy should be reviewed periodically. "Perhaps 
the government will slowly have to adapt to the idea that wiretapping 
is not a panacea for the information need of the police." 

As Koops suggests: "if there is no solution, there is no problem 
either." Rather than continue to worry over the crypto controversy, 
the government should concentrate its energy and resources on other 
pressing social issues which it can address. 

Publication details
Bert-Jaap Koops, The Crypto Controversy. A Key Conflict in the 
Information Society. The Hague / London / Boston, Kluwer Law 
International, 1999, 301 pages, ISBN 90 411 1143 3. 

A summary and ordering information are available at 


Curriculum vitae

Bert-Jaap Koops (1967) studied mathematics and 
literature at Groningen University. After working for Amnesty 
International for two years, he started a Ph.D. research at Tilburg 
University and Eindhoven University of Technology at the faculties of 
law, mathematics and technology management. Since October 1998, he is 
a senior research fellow at the Centre for Law, Public Administration 
and Informatization of Tilburg University. 

Koops is editor of the Dutch reference book Recht & 
informatietechnologie. He co-edited a book on Emerging Electronic 
Highways and has published widely on crypto regulation, computer 
crime, and Trusted Third Parties. He maintains an extensive worldwide 
survey of crypto laws on the Internet.

Bert-Jaap Koops <e.j.koops@kub.nl>
Tilburg University
13 January 1999