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Key Escrow

Since its announcement in April 1993, the Clipper Chip initiative has met with widespread criticism from the computer industry and the Internet community. Believing that much of the criticism grew out of the fact that government agencies would serve as "escrow agents" and hold spare encryption keys, the Administration has sought to find more acceptable variations of the key-escrow concept.

Begining in 1994, the administration issued a series of proposals calling for the development of escrow-based software (also called "key management" and "key recovery") by industry. Under the proposals, a spare set of keys would be given to a "trusted third party" who had been approved by the government and who would turn over keys in investigations. This software could then be freely exported to most countries. At the same time, Justice Department officials has been pressuring international groups such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union to adopt key escrow as a standard.

  Last Modified: April 14, 1998

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