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Communications Privacy: Federal Policy and Actions

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Citation Edit

General Accounting Office, Communications Privacy: Federal Policy and Actions (GAO/OSI-94-2) (Nov. 4, 1993) (full-text).

Overview Edit

This report looked at the battle between agencies within the U.S. federal government over the use of encryption technology to protect against economic espionage.

The report found that: (1) the U.S. computer industry has increasingly used computer and communications equipment with encryption capabilities to protect proprietary information because of the increased risk of economic espionage; (2) national security and law enforcement concerns have led to federal policies that limit the use and export of U.S. commercial encryption technology and hinder its development; (3) the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and NSA have developed federal cryptographic policies and standards for sensitive, but unclassified information, but they have not sought input from affected business interests, academia, and others; (4) although the Departments of State and Commerce are responsible for setting export controls, NSA plays a major role in determining rules for exporting U.S. products with encryption capabilities; (5) stringent export controls limit U.S. industry's ability to compete in international markets for encryption products; and (6) the FBI proposed legislation would compel telecommunications service providers and private branch exchange operators to ensure that wiretapping needs could be met and prohibit any technology that would impede government interception of electronic communications.

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