December 12, 1996 2:00 PM ET
Panel decries Clinton administration's cryptography policies
By Jim Kerstetter

  NEW YORK--The Clinton administration's cryptography policies are not only short-sighted, they are deceitful and based on emotional rather than rational arguments, a panel of computer security experts said this morning.

Speaking during an often cantankerous discussion here at Internet World, the five panelists were united in their condemnation of the administration's newly announced cryptography rules, which still limit export of encryption technology to 56 bits.

The panel included Mike Godwin, staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Tim Mather, information systems security manager at Apple Computer Inc.; Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center; Steven Levy, technology columnist for Newsweek; and Roszel Thomsen, a partner at the law firm McKenney, Thomsen and Burke.

Individuals who use the Internet often and are comfortable with new technology--rarely the people setting regulations at the Commerce Department--need to put pressure on the government to loosen the export grip before American companies loose their competitive edge, the panelists said.

"We have to be very evangelical toward teaching people about encryption matters," said Godwin.

Apple, for example, went to Europe to buy security technology and is distributing it widely, but only outside the United Sates, according to Mather.

Rotenberg cited a recent poll taken by the Georgia Institute of Technology that found the right to online privacy and anonymity were a top priority among Internet users.

"I think the people who are on the Internet get this," he said.

But panelists at the session, sponsored by Pretty Good Privacy Inc., weren't in such agreement on privacy inside the firewall.

Apple, for example, reserves the right to read employees' E-mail files if a manager believes a law or company policy has been broken. A written request must be filed to several managers before Apple starts snooping, but it does happen occasionally, said Mather.

Godwin argued that a progressive company should recognize the privacy of E-mail communication.

"I sent you E-mail last night. Is that Apple's property now?" Godwin asked Mather.

"Yes it is."

"I think not."

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