The European Union is expected to dramatically reduce restrictions on the export of encryption between member nations this coming Monday -- a move which experts believe will force the US to take similar steps.
European ministers will meet next week to discuss whether to drop existing regulations that require companies to seek permission before exporting specific encryption product.
A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry says that the EU is likely to introduce a general licence for member states and trusted non-members, enabling them to export encryption freely. "The UK government welcomes the move to simplify the process and extend the general licence to other trusted non-European countries," he says.
Independent encryption consultant Brian Gladman believes such a move would almost certainly force America to remove its own restrictions. "It would remove its restrictions because there would be no point in having them," says Gladman. "There is now the genuine belief among European nations that we need proper protection and security."
The Clinton Administration recently removed restrictions on publishing the source code for encryption applications, although companies must still get permission from the US government to export cryptography.
Gladman believes that encouraging e-commerce is undoubtedly be the main intention of the European Union but adds that public enthusiasm for encryption may have also influenced the decision.
Take me to the e-commerce special.