Clipper: Should US govt read your mail?

Mike Cherry cherry at stout.Stanford.EDU
Fri Mar 4 00:01:49 EST 1994

In article <1994Mar2.221615.10246 at>,
S. A. Modena <samodena at> wrote:
>In article <2l07s2$sak at> cash at (Howard Cash) writes:
>>Una, while I strongly agree that the clipper standard is an inappropriate
>>and dangerous use of technology to diminish personal privacy, I think that
>>your characterization is incorrect.  There is no proposal (not yet, at 
>>least) to make clipper "the only legal form of encryption."  Rather the
>>clipper chip may come "standard" with all computers, making it the 
>>encryption method of choice for those who do not recognize the inherent
>>danger of having data decrypted by a third party.  If the clipper chip
>>turns up on every PC and Macintosh, it will not be very attractive for
>>commercial software companies to create alternative encryption schemes,
>>but that's a far cry from saying that alternate schemes will be illegal.
>I guess I missed Una's posting...but as I understand the Clipper matter,
>from readings in InfoWorld, Circuit Cellar INK, Dr. Dobb's Journal,
>and PC Techniques...the purpose of the Clipper Standard will to
>make it's encryption key system the *only* legal encryption system.

My understanding is that it will be the only legal encryption for the
US government and thus be required in all US government purchases. It
will not be the only encryption for all computers or users. Presumably
this will end up the same any number of other "standards" that the US
government has stated for computers and software. No one trusts the
"government" enough to let the clipper standard be used.  Plus there
are several encryption methods that are available through sources from
around the world.  There is no way to enforce the use of a clipper
standard. Plus there are an enormous number of multi-national
corporations that will not use clipper for any number of obvious

J. Michael Cherry                       Internet: cherry at
Project Manager                         Saccharomyces Genome Database
Stanford DNA Sequence & Tech. Center    Department of Genetics
Stanford University School of Medicine  Stanford, CA 94305-5120

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