US about-turn on data snooping

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The Independent Online
IN A major change of policy, the US Administration is relaxing restrictions on export of data encryption technology.

The decision yesterday is a hard-won victory for American high-technology companies, who had long complained that European companies were gaining an increasing share of the world market.

Any change in the rules had been fiercely resisted by the US military and law enforcement authorities who said such exports would impede their fight against cyber-crime and allow international terrorists to obtain the most sophisticated electronic scrambling technology.

The relaxation, which comes into force later this autumn, allows retail and custom sales to companies and individual users after a single technical review by the US commerce department. Industry representatives said this would enable them to compete for the first time on an equal footing with foreign competitors.

Companies will still be required to supply the commerce department with lists of its customers and may not sell to countries subject to US trade embargo.

These include Cuba, Iran, Iraq and North Korea. The FBI and the military have been promised an increase in funds to police cyber-crime.

The White House said the policy change resulted from a review by several government departments and was designed to benefit the economy, preserve privacy, serve the national security interest and protect law enforcement capabilities.