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Understanding Contemporary Cryptography and its Wider Impact upon the General Law

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As the move toward the wider regulation of cryptography, both within the United Kingdom and elsewhere, becomes increasingly irresistible, the degree of understanding afforded to cryptography at the level of policy formation remains underdeveloped, ambiguous and, at times, misleading. One corollary of such solicitude is that a number of the most important and pervasive legal issues that flow naturally from the widespread availability of cryptography remain largely unexplored. This article attempts to remedy these deficiencies. It begins by offering a brief historical perspective before progressing to consider more substantive issues such as cryptography's aims, power, limitations, effectiveness and future. Ignoring, to a large extent, issues of law enforcement, and focusing, in particular, upon both the law of data protection, and, to a lesser extent, the general law of obligations in the United Kingdom, this article argues that the decision to utilise cryptography will not simply prove a matter of choice, preference or expediency, but of legal and commercial necessity in order to avoid the potential imposition of widespread indeterminate liability.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-08-01

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