US grants PGP encryption export license

The US government has granted Network Associates a license to export its PGP encryption software -- a move that the company termed "landmark" in an announcement yesterday.

The license will allow Network Associates to ship its full-strength PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption software to most nations worldwide without restriction. Exports to some countries -- such as Cuba and Iraq -- remain off limits even as the Clinton administration moves toward loosening restrictions.

The decision to grant the license precedes the expected new export control policy from the White House, another fact hailed by Network Associates. The move will "point the way" for other US companies, including those who sell products online, the Santa Clara-California based security software vendor said.

Additional details regarding the license and its conditions were not provided.

The Clinton administration last month circulated a draft of its new proposed regulations for encryption export. Although the new policy proposal loosens restrictions, some members of the US Congress were chagrined that the draft calls, for example, for export of shrinkwrapped encryption software through retail outlets independent of the manufacturer.

That language, according to some critics, would allow traditional retail stores an advantage over e-commerce merchants. US Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, criticised the draft language, but said that she had talked to President Bill Clinton and also wrote a follow-up letter to him regarding her concerns, and was assured that he and his staff will work to resolve the remaining issues. The final encryption plan is expected to be released on Wednesday.

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