Publication Details

Desmedt, Y. G, Burmester, M. & Seberry, J. (2001). Equitability in Retroactive Data Confiscation versus Proactive Key Escrow. In Kim, K. (ed), Public Key Cryptography, 4th International Workshop on Practice and Theory in Public Key Cryptography, PKC2001, Cheju Is, Korea, February 2001, Vol 1992. Also available at Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 1992, 277-286. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2001.


The British Regulations of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act 2000 is one of the first modern bills for mandatory disclosure of protected data in a democratic country. In this paper we compare this bill from a technical point of view with the US key escrow proposal (EES) and its variants and then, more generally we compare the merits of key confiscation vs key escrow. A major problem with key escrow is that once a private key is recovered it can be used to decipher ciphertexts which were sent well before a war-rant was issued (or after its expiration). Several alternative key escrow systems have been proposed in the literature to address this issue. These are equitable, in the sense that the control of society over the individual and the control of the individual over society are fairly shared. We show that equitability is much easier to achieve with key confiscation than with key escrow. Consequently, although the RIP act was heavily criticized in the press and on the internet, it inherently maintains a better level of privacy than key escrow. Finally we present some practical deniable decryption variants of popular public key systems.



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