Sun Microsystems has quietly sidelined its much-touted plans to distribute high level encryption software worldwide in order to stay in favour with the US government.
A year ago Sun publicly announced it could circumvent US federal restrictions on selling US developed high level encryption products outside the US, by distributing products developed by Russian company Elvis+.
But Sun?s pursuit of large government contracts and its involvement with the Department of Justice case against Microsoft has caused it to lay any lofty principles of free trade aside.
?You don?t want to upset the customer, especially not the government,? admitted chief executive Scott McNealy, speaking at a conference this week, pointing to Sun?s recent $500 million contract with the US Post Office as a very good reason not to risk flouting encryption regulations.
Nor does Sun want to divert government and public attention from the Department of Justice monopoly investigation into Microsoft.
Officially Sun is still examining its options on the Elvis+ products but no decision is expected any time soon, if at all.
Sun?s existing encryption software, Sunscreen SKIP, is available in various versions - only US and Canadian customers can get encryption above a certain level. The main problem was that the Elvis+ products were above the restricted level and did not include any form of key recovery - a method the US government is demanding be present so it can access encrypted mail.
Sun?s excuse is that the US Commerce Department has been looking into the matter but when it announced its plans to distribute the product last May, the company was confident it needed no regulatory approval. Now it seems to be seeking approval of another kind.
Despite the obvious policy U-turn, McNealy said he still believed that the vast majority of people would use this technology for honest purposes and should be allowed free access to it.
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