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Letter to the Prime Minister

To the Prime Minister, from The Internet Society of New Zealand, 21 September 1998.

Other supporters of the campaign may be found at the list EFA Campaign

For further background information please go to the ISOCNZ Discussion Document

Dear Mrs. Shipley,

Wassenaar Agreement

The Internet Society of New Zealand, which represents the interests of New Zealand Internet users, is supporting an international campaign to have controls on the import and export of cryptographic software removed from the Wassenaar Arrangement at this month's talks for the Wassenaar Arrangement countries.

Some of the 33 signatory nations, namely Australia, New Zealand, USA, France, and Russia, go further than is required under Wassenaar and restrict general purpose "strong" cryptography software as dual-use goods.

The Wassenaar Arrangement has had a significant impact on cryptography export controls and there seems little doubt that some of the nations represented will seek to use the next round to move towards a more repressive cryptography export control regime.

We note that in the past few weeks the New Zealand Government has allowed physical export for sale of a general purpose "strong" cryptography product, and that there appears to be free electronic movement of cryptography in and out of our borders.

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mr Williamson, attended the launch last week of the first New Zealand 128 bit-based encryption/digital signature company.

In view of these developments, we would welcome dropping of the current licensing process forphysical export of cryptography, which creates uncertainty for civil and commercial users.

It is our belief that if New Zealand Government representatives were to support removal of cryptography from the Wassenaar Arrangement, not only the best interests of our citizens, our civil infrastructure, and our commercial interests would be served, but also the best interests of nations globally.

Free use of "strong", (normally, public key) cryptography supports the right of people to privacy of communications. This is an important issue, not only for citizens of less democratic countries, but for the maintenance of our democratic rights in the electronic age.

Export controls on cryptography mean that electronic transactions outside national borders may not be protected by the best technology available, and that commercial and other information, such as hospital data on patients, is thus vulnerable to criminal attack.

The development of secure electronic commerce is of considerable importance to the economy of New Zealand and other countries.

The International Cryptography Campaign is co-ordinated by Electronic Frontiers Australia (, under the auspices of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC).

GILC states that the aim of the Wassenaar Arrangement is to prevent the build up of military capabilities that threaten regional and international security and stability. The Arrangement controls the export of cryptography as a dual-use good, that is, one that has both military and civilian applications, but also provides an exemption from export controls for mass-market software and software in the "public domain."

GILC states that the arrangement cannot legitimately be used to obstruct genuine civil transactions, nor will it interfere with the rights of states to acquire legitimate means with which to defend themselves pursuant to Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The intent of the Arrangement is to restrict the proliferation of offensive strategic weapons, but cryptography is a defensive mechanism, particularly against electronic warfare attacks.

We therefore request that the New Zealand Government support removal of cryptography export controls from the Wassenaar Arrangement, and that it oppose any attempts to introduce further domestic controls over the use of cryptography.

We look forward to your reply.

Jim Higgins
Jenny Shearer
Policy Committee Chairperson

Internet Society of New Zealand

cc. The Hon. Maurice Williamson
Minister of Communications and Information Technology
Parliament Buildings

© 1998 The Internet Society of New Zealand

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