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Controlling the flow of information in the information age is as important as controlling the flow of water in the desert. Encryption is a critical tool for managing and protecting information. In recent years, encryption has shifted from the obscure obsession of generals and mathematicians to an important policy issue for all citizens, with impact on crime, civil rights, national defense, and economic competitiveness.

A great deal of important and sensitive information is stored in computers, or transmitted across communications networks. Ironically, more and more of this information is carried on inherently unsecure media such as the Internet and cellular phones. Encryption makes it easier to prevent information from being observed, corrupted, or falsified.

This paper will briefly summarize current encryption controversies. Section 2 provides background on encryption technology and its common uses. Section 3 summarizes the typical objectives of encryption policy, which are often in conflict. Section 4 describes the extent to which strong encryption is currently available. Sections 5, 6, and 7 address the three areas where legislation is most likely in the next two years: key recovery, restrictions on domestic use of encryption, and export control. This paper is summarized in Section 8.

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