The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will not recommend that governments are given keys to decode encryption programs, as suggested by US president Bill Clinton?s administration.
The US government wants international support for its policy that suppliers of strong encryption products should provide relevant authorities with a way to crack codes when they need to access data for legal reasons. But a leaked draft of the OECD report sits on the fence, suggesting that governments should carefully examine the implications of providing keys, good or bad.
John Dryden, head of the OECD?s Information, Computer and Communications Policy division, admitted that OECD member countries do not always agree on the issue. Some say keys will hamper police in their efforts to catch criminals while others say keys are vital to protect sensitive information, Dryden said.
The private sector should have a major input into encryption standards, he said, to help technological development and create jobs.
US officials praised the sentiment of the report and remain hopeful that other countries will follow the US? lead and force companies to provide keys. Most software companies hope the guidelines will reinforce their call for a free encryption software market with no keys, allowing them to compete on a level playing field with developers from other countries. A Netscape representative said: "This is not helpful."
The OECD is yet to approve the draft report and officials from the group?s 29 member countries will meet to discuss the guidelines it contains.
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