Following on from David Cameron’s recent announced policy of banning strong encryption, it has been revealed that in 1997 the Government of the day had a plan to restrict encryption.
The revelation comes in a long forgotten Public Consultation Paper issued in March 1997, which proposed that the use of encryption should be restricted to Trusted Third Parties (TTPs) who would be licensed and regulated by the Government. These TTPs would provide a range of encrypted communication services to businesses for e-commerce purposes, while allowing the Government a back-door into such communications.
It is clear from the document that by 1997 politicians had realised that electronic commerce was dependent upon secure communication. However, as is the still very much the case today, they were paranoid that encryption would interfere with the ability of Government bodies such as the security services to monitor communications. The document provides an interesting historical insight into the mindset of a 1990’s Government and its now somewhat laughable belief that encryption technologies could somehow be centrally controlled.
The consultation document was published only six weeks before the 1997 General Election, but appears to have been forgotten about after the election.