For years the press has covered closely the fight to loosen the government's stringent controls on exporting U.S.-grown cryptography. Since last fall the Clinton administration has been slowly relaxing its grip, so perhaps it's not surprising that yesterday's near-abandonment of crypto controls commanded little coverage.
The proposed new regulations would let U.S. companies export any sort of cryptographic product to anyone in 15 countries (Reuters called this group the "EU-plus-8"). Gone are distinctions between exporting to end users vs. governments. Gone is the requirement for a technical review before export, gone the 30-day waiting period.
The White House announced the crypto relaxation along with other proposals on Net wiretapping and privacy rights, and most outlets bundled all these themes together in their coverage. Only Reuters isolated the crypto thread into its own story, which CNET and MSNBC picked up.
Wired, historically among the closest of crypto-watchers, gave the export angle four paragraphs out of 14. The New York Times mentioned crypto in only one paragraph of its page-one story.
The Washington Post led today's online tech summary with a link titled "Easing Encryption," but the story it pointed to was headed "U.S. Hopes to Extend Online Wiretapping." The Post's scribe stood alone in reporting that under the new proposal the one-time technical review will remain in place; the White House's posted statement disagrees.
Analysis of what the relaxed rules will mean to business and law enforcement was thin on the ground today. Last Saturday, when Monday's crypto liberalization was but a rumor, the San Jose Mercury News ran a Knight-Ridder story in which Lenny Savino interviewed software industry execs, the head of the Business Software Alliance and FBI sources to flesh out the impact. - Keith Dawson
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