Dutch parliament questions crypto telephone

By EDRi · December 3, 2003

The presentation of a crypto mobile telephone has stirred some controversy
in the Netherlands. The Cryptophone has been developed in the Netherlands
and is sold through a German company. The device is a combined GSM and
organiser running Windows Pocket PC. The software encrypts the call when
connecting to another Cryptophone. The Cryptophone should make it
impossible for any third-party, including the phone company and police, to
listen to the call.

The Dutch christian-democrat Member of Parliament Haersma-Buma has asked
the Dutch government if there is a possibility of forbidding the phones,
since they can make it impossible for police to use the information from a
wiretapped mobile phone call. Dutch police relies heavily on phone
interception with an estimated 12.000 phone taps per year. This number is
higher then in any other European country or even the US.

The Cryptophone is legal under Dutch law, that does not put any
restriction on the use of cryptography by its citizens. It is not expected
that legislation will be passed to change this situation. In 2002 the
Netherlands decided not to evoke key escrow on Trusted Third parties.
Dutch export regulation is in accordance with the liberal EU regulations
that put little restrictions on cryptographic products for the consumer
market. Furthermore, in recent years Dutch government proclaimed that the
wide availability of cryptography is essential to information security and
helps to maintain privacy of telecommunications.

Other European countries have little or no restrictions on the use of
cryptography. France, that used to have laws against the use of strong
crypto, liberalised its law completely in 2001. Programs like PGP and GPG
are widely availably and used throughout Europe.


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