Governments all over the world, including the U.S. government, have concerns about the use of encryption. This concern manifests itself in a range of regulatory challenges to the technology that limit or restrict its use. The concerns, and therefore the regulations, differ from nation to nation. One example of this comes from the early years of encryption in the United States. Diffie-Hellman and the guys at RSA came up with the mathematical foundations for today’s symmetric encryption solutions in the late 1970s. The NSA tried to block this research from being published because they felt it was a threat to their oversight of security matters. In the meantime, the barriers to research and the patent laws that favored offshore development caused a number of researchers in foreign countries to put their attention to potential technologies. Among those were PGP, or pretty good privacy. By the early 1990s the United States Congress, at the behest of the NSA and other intelligence agencies, were casting about for regulations that could restrict the impact of encryption, including a requirement that anyone manufacturing an encryption-based technology create a backdoor into their solutions or engage in ‘key escrow’ where the keys to an encryption algorithm would be held by a neutral third party. This controversy and the reaction to it is comparable to the more recent fight over the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) rules, over which Internet providers and users pushed back at Congress.
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