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OECD

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

The OECD released its Recommendation of the Council concerning Guidelines for Cryptography Policy on 27 March 1997. The guidelines are non-binding recommendations to Member governments, meaning that they will not be part of international law. The Guidelines provide principles which states should take into account and balance in developing a national crypto policy.

The principles are:

1) Trust in cryptographic methods
2) Choice of cryptographic methods
3) Market driven development of cryptographic methods
4) Standards for cryptographic methods
5) Protection of privacy and personal data
6) Lawful access
7) Liability
8) International co-operation

The principles should be seen as “interdependent and should be implemented as a whole so as to balance the various interests at stake. No principle should be implemented in isolation from the rest.”

Some have welcomed the OECD principles as a victory for privacy over US-pushed key recovery, while others object to certain points as being too inflexible or too vague. Although the guidelines do not endorse key recovery, they do not prohibit it either. In fact, the guidelines are vague enough to allow a broad range of interpretation, and states will be able to choose a privacy-oriented or a law-enforcement-driven policy line as they see fit. While the guidelines recommend states to cooperate to coordinate their crypto policies, one may be skeptical about the chances of governments coming to an agreement; after all, within the OECD, states have not been able to agree, and they have left the task of finding a balance between, roughly speaking, information security/ privacy and law-enforcement/ national security to individual states.

The process of discussing and drafting policy guidelines started with an Ad-hoc Meeting of Experts on Cryptography Policy on 18-19 December 1995, organized by the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP). They proposed to make a study upon current Member Countries encryption policies, market for encryption, key escrow encryption, and to develop a cryptography policy guideline based on the following principles, among others: provides security with confidence, voluntary use, international perspective, recognise national responsibilities, legally effective. The Group of Experts on Security, Privacy and Intellectual Property Protection in the Global Information Infrastructure held subsequent meetings on 7-8 February 1996 in Canberra, on 8 May 1996 in Washington, DC, on 26-28 June in Paris, and on 26-27 September 1996, again in Paris. At the June 1996 meeting, according to one report, no agreement was established; the OECD was said to be split into two parties, one with countries favouring mandatory key escrow (notably the US, UK, and France), and one with countries opposing this approach (mainly Japan and the Scandinavian countries). See a 1 October 1996 press release.

One can compare the final version to an earlier draft of the Guidelines that was discussed at the December 1996 meeting (with rather optimistic personal comments by Robin Whittle). (Text between [square brackets] remained to be decided upon.) In January 1997, the OECD Group of Experts on Security. Privacy, and Intellectual Property Protection in the GII concluded the guidelines. The Guidelines were finally turned into a Council of the OECD resolution in March 1997.

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