France has relaxed its laws on the use of strong cryptography, with a view to completely revising its crypto legislation.
The government has outlined a draft bill allowing complete freedom of use of encryption products, removing the requirement for mandatory key escrow, and giving the authorities new powers to access versions of encrypted files.
Export restrictions will be kept in place to honour France's signing of the Wassenar agreement, but the government has announced its intention to remove the requirement to register for the use of encryption keys over 40 bits in length changing it to 56 bits.
Although the bill removes the obligation to register encryption keys with trusted third parties, it will encourage these third parties to offer more services such as certifying digital certificates, so that people will be more likely to use the escrow service.
Another clause calls for changes to the legal system so that police can gain warrants for access to the unencrypted content of files.
Data protection issues will be dealt with by the National Commission for Information Technology and Liberty (CNIL), which the French government will invest with more powers; and the legal status of digital documents and signatures will be revised.
Ken Chia, IT specialist at Hammond Suddard Solicitors, commented: "France has been backtracking for a long time, and still hasn't got to where the UK is now, but it is moving. There are always going to be export controls on encryption, however, because the US has managed to convince Europe to enforce its policy."
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