(For immediate release --- Monday, April 27, 1998)


International Human Rights Organizations
Express Privacy Concerns About
Canadian Cryptography Policy

OTTAWA -- Twenty-three civil liberty and human rights organizations from around the world have signed a letter urging the Canadian government to liberalize its cryptography policy, instead of tightening restrictions, as it is currently considering. The letter was delivered to the Task Force on Electronic Commerce at a roundtable meeting hosted by Industry Canada.

A copy of the letter is available on the web at: http://www.efc.ca/pages/crypto/gilc-letter.20apr98.html

Encryption, or encoding, which allows computer files and digital communications to be scrambled when stored or transmitted, and later descrambled using a secret key, is widely recognized as essential for protecting privacy in today's wired world. It is a technology that enables secure electronic commerce for business and private e-mail for personal communications. It can even be incorporated into new digital PCS cellular telephones to prevent snoops from listening in.

The organizations signing the letter, members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, highlighted the importance of cryptography for protecting freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to privacy.

The letter comes in response to a February 1998 Industry Canada report entitled "A Cryptography Policy Framework for Electronic Commerce", which listed possible scenarios for government regulation of cryptographic hardware and software. Dr. David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada, this country's leading online civil liberties group, delivered the letter in Ottawa last week at a meeting with Industry Canada.

Advocates for government restrictions on the use of encryption technology include the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), all of which were represented at the Ottawa meeting, where they expressed concern about losing the ability to eavesdrop on email or voice communications when conducting investigations.

"Law enforcement agencies must be provided a means by which they can decrypt information they gather", said RCMP Commissioner Philip Murray at the meeting, and in the RCMP's written submission to Industry Canada. (see RCMP letter below)

"Canadians have the right to speak in codes", counters Jones. "We have the right to speak in languages the police don't understand, whether it is Inuktitut or Cree or some other digital language."

Concerned about the use of secret codes they can't crack, law enforcement officials have asked the government to consider a requirement that all secret keys be made stored in a manner that police can gain access, with court authorization, without the key owner knowing about it.

"This is comparable to asking the front-door keys for 10 million Canadian homes be deposited at the local police station, 'just in case' there was a need to execute a search warrant", says Jeffrey Shallit, vice-president of Electronic Frontier Canada. "Canadians are right to reject this as unreasonably intrusive."

'Mandatory key recover', as the controversial policy option is called, "would create an unnecessary risk that criminals might gain access to encryption keys", says Jones, "and this would undermine public trust in financial transactions conducted electronically."

"The deployment of a general key-recovery-based encryption infrastructure to meet law enforcement's stated requirements will result in substantial sacrifices in security", cautions a report published last year by leading cryptographers and computer scientists. (see "Risks" paper below)

Electronic Frontier Canada is a non-profit educational organization devoted to ensuring the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are preserved as new computing, communication, and information technologies emerge.

The list of organizations that signed the letter follows.

l'Association pour la Promotion d'Internet en Polynésie Française (l'APIPF)
Associazione per la Libertà nella Comunicazione Elettronica Interattiva (ALCEI) (Electronic Frontiers Italy)
Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain (CACIB)
Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
Citoyens et Internautes Tous Associés pour la Défense des Liberté (CITADEL) (Electronic Frontier France)
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties, UK
Derechos Human Rights (DHR)
Digital Citizens Foundation Netherlands (DB-NL)
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA)
Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Equipo Nizkor, Spain
Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG), Germany
Fronteras Electrónicas España (FrEE), Spain
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Index on Censorship
Internet Society (ISOC)
Privacy International
Quintessenz, Austria


EFC Contact Information:

Electronic Frontier Canada

Dr. David Jones, djones@efc.ca
phone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 24689, fax: (905) 546-9995
Dr. Jeffrey Shallit, shallit@efc.ca
phone: (519) 888-4804, fax: (519) 885-1208
Dr. Richard Rosenberg, rosen@efc.ca
phone: (604) 822-4142, fax: (604) 822-5485

Electronic Frontier Canada's, online archives:
URL: http://www.efc.ca

EFC Fax: (519) 745-0941 (if busy, call (519) 743-8754)

Additional Conact Information:

Helen McDonald
Director General, Policy Development,
Task Force on Electronic Commerce
addr:  Industry Canada, 20th Floor, 300 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H5
phone:  (613) 957-8837
email:  crypto@ic.gc.ca

Marc Rotenberg
Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center
addr:  666 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Suite 301, Washington, DC, 20003
phone:  (202) 544-9240
email:  rotenberg@epic.org
web:  http://www.epic.org

Related Documents:

GILC/EFC Letter to Industry Canada (20apr98)
( http://www.efc.ca/pages/crypto/gilc-letter.20apr98.html )
This letter was prepared by EFC and signed by 23 civil liberty and human rights organizations around the world who are members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign.

RCMP Letter to Industry Canada (21apr98)
( http://www.efc.ca/pages/crypto/rcmp.21apr98.html )
This letter was submitted to Industry Canada by RCMP Commissioner Phil Murray.

EFC Golden Key Campaign
( http://www.efc.ca/pages/crypto/golden-key.html )
This web page contains links to additional information related to cryptography policy in Canada.

The Risks of Key Recovery, Key Escrow,and Trusted Third-Party Encryption
( http://www.crypto.com/key_study/report.shtml )
This is a very influential paper by some of the top cryptographers in the world: Hal Abelson, Ross Anderson, Steven M. Bellovin, Josh Benaloh, Matt Blaze, Whitfield Diffie, John Gilmore, Peter G. Neumann, Ronald L. Rivest, Jeffrey I. Schiller, Bruce Schneier.