Although French regulations on encryption technologies do not discriminate in favour of French suppliers, the European Commission (EC) will monitor all member states' activities in this field in future.
This was the response of Mario Monti, the EC's internal market commissioner, to a question from Astrid Thors, a Finnish Liberal Euro member of Parliament (MP), who said that the two regulations adopted by the French last year imposed restrictions on the use of encryption technology. They also mean that trusted third party (TTP) holders of keys must be French citizens.
"The French legislation distinguishes between, on the one hand, confidentiality products and services and, on the other hand, authentication such as digital signatures, products and services," said Monti in his parliamentary reply.
"The commission reconfirms the position taken in the communication [policy statement] on digital signatures and encryption, which made clear that it would monitor closely the behaviour of member states in the field of cryptography and assess the relevant national provisions," he continued.
Monti explained that he wanted to ensure national regulations are not a barrier to trade between member states and also that they comply with a recent data protection directive.
But the French legislation sets down rules on the use of confidentiality products and services, the supply of low security products, on service providers established in France, and on other supplies as products or services.
As a result, the EC believes no restrictions apply to the use of confidentiality products - if an authorised service provider is used. In other cases, prior authorisation is needed, and the supply of low security products is subject to a prior declaration procedure, Monti said.
Service providers in France, on the other hand, have to conform to a special prior authorisation procedure, which is required for other supplies of products or services.
"In the special prior authorisation procedure, concerning providers of confidentiality services established on French ground, there is no requirement that French nationals make up a majority of the board [of TTPs]," said the EC, because the decree only requires that service providers employ enough staff to qualify for membership.
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