[ISN] Is Strong Crypto a Human Right?

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Thu Dec 10 1998 - 23:58:26 PST

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    Is Strong Crypto a Human Right?
    by James Glave
    2:05 p.m.  10.Dec.98.PST
    Privacy activists rallied around the United Nations' Human Rights Day
    Thursday with email and fax protests targeting the government of China for
    alleged human-rights abuses. A related campaign attacked a multinational
    agreement that will tighten controls on data-scrambling technologies. 
    "We feel cryptography is one of the key elements required to protect human
    rights, specifically the 12th article of the UN's Universal Declaration of
    Human Rights that states that privacy is a basic human right," said Austin
    Hill, president of privacy software firm Zero Knowledge Systems. 
    Hill said that new crypto controls -- part of an arms-control treaty
    signed by 33 countries and known as the Wassenaar Arrangement -- will harm
    the efforts of human-rights workers in China and elsewhere. 
    "Wassenaar implements a system whereby people say human rights are less
    important than things like economic interests or the ability to conduct
    foreign intelligence," said Hill. 
    The Wassenaar Arrangement, signed late last week, would limit the spread
    of strong crypto on the grounds that it might be used by terrorists to
    hide their communications. 
    Hill will join privacy experts at a San Francisco symposium hosted by the
    Electronic Frontier Foundation called "Cyber Rights = Human Rights: The
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Not a Local Ordinance in
    Hill will be joined by other electronic-privacy luminaries, including EFF
    co-founder John Perry Barlow and Esther Dyson, acting chairwoman of the
    Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. 
    A coalition of 13 free speech and scientific organizations launched an
    email campaign on behalf of two imprisoned Chinese scientists charged with
    using the Internet to promote democracy. Lin Hai is awaiting trial on
    charges of supplying the email addresses of 30,000 Chinese citizens to a
    dissident group in the United States. 
    And Wang Youcai was jailed last month after attempting to form an
    opposition party and emailing supporting documents to dissidents. 
    Had strong encryption been available, it's likely that neither man would
    be in jail today, suggested Dave Del Torto, founder of the Cryptorights
    "Being able to communicate privately is an essential tool for anyone
    challenging the status quo, whether military or political," said Del
    "There are a lot of questions if cryptography in particular is a human
    right," he said. "That is one of the things that we are establishing, the
    ability to use technology to maintain your privacy." 
    On Thursday, Hill's company launched FreeCrypto to protest the treaty.
    People can fill out a Web form that will fax or email a letter of protest
    to their government representatives. 
    "The Internet and other new, democratic information technologies have made
    it easier than ever before for ordinary citizens to exercise their human
    rights,"  said EFF counsel Mike Godwin in a statement. 
    "That's why it is so important for us all to renew our commitment to the
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights.... new technologies have given
    expanded meaning to those guarantees." 
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