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Encryption Bills In the 105th Congress (1997- 1998)

Three major encryption related bills were introduced in the 105th Congress. Although the SAFE bill (HR 695) received significant bi-partisan support and was approved by several House committees, no legislation was approved by the 105th Congress.

See below of summaries and linnks to additional information about each bill.


The "Security and Freedom Through Encryption Act" (SAFE, HR 695)

    The Security and Freedom through Encryption Act (SAFE), championed by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and cosponsored by a solid, bi-partisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives, is designed to promote privacy, security, and competitiveness in the Informaiton Age. The legislation would:

    • Affirm Americans' freedom to use the strongest possible encryption.

    • Defeat attempts to force Americans to provide the government with some government-approved "third party" with "keys" to their encrypted information.

    • Allow the U.S. to compete in the rapidly growing market for strong encryption products.

    Americans for Computer Privacy enthusiastically supports SAFE. The bill also enjoys support from the financial services industry, the health care industry, privacy organizations, both liberal and conservative think tanks and the high-tech community, among others.

| Bill Summary and Status (from Thomas) | | Statements of Support from Congress |
| Editorial Support for SAFE |


The "E-Privacy Act" (S. 2067)

    The "Encryption Protects the Rights of Individuals from Violation and Abuse in CYberspace Act" (E-PRIVACY Act), introduced on May 12, 1998 by Senators John Ashcroft (R-MO), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Conrad Burns (R-MT) is designed to help promote privacy.

    The bill seeks to encourage the widespread availablity of strong encryption without back-doors for government, and provide needed security for your communications business transactions, medical records, tax returns, and other sensitive information. Specifically, the E-Privacy Act would:

    • protect the privacy of Americans by ensuring that confidential information, such as health and financial data, remain secure;

    • modernize US export controls, guaranteeing American leadership in the global marketplace; and

    • respect our Constitutional rights while at the same time assisting law enforcement in obtaining information on criminal activity by establishing a National Electronic Technology Center (NET Center) to serve as a focal point for information and assistance to Federal, State and local law enforcement authorities.

    | Bill Summary and Status (from Thomas) | Additional Information |


The "Secure Public Networks Act" (S. 909)

    The "Secure Public Networks Act" (S. 909) is a controversial proposal sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Bob Kerrey (D-NE), John Kerry (D-MA) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC). Unlike the SAFE Act, S. 909 would require all Americans to use government-approved "third party" agents to hold a spare copy of every encryption "key". These so-called "key recovery" or "key escrow" systems are risky and would limit the ability of American citizens and businesses to protect their privacy.

    Though presented as a "compromise", the McCain-Kerrey bill is in fact virtually identical to the FBI's broad electronic surveillance proposals circulating in the House. If enacted, the bill would put Americans' privacy rights in jeapardy and undermine the potential of the Internet for electronic commerce.

    The Secure Public Networks Act was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in May of 1997, but has not yet made its way to the full Senate for a vote.

| Bill Summary and Status (from Thomas) |


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