Germany: Speech On Crypto Regulation By German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther

Last Updated: 18 May 1998
This is taken from Christopher Kuner's homepage Click Contact Link where there are further articles regarding the Law of Electronic and Internet Commerce In Germany.

Given at the Opening of the 5th Annual BSI IT Security Congress on April 28, 1997 in Bonn

Translation and Commentary by Click Contact Link , Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch & Partners, Frankfurt

Translation copyright 1996 Christopher Kuner. Reproduction is permitted, provided that this translator's note, including the above copyright notice, is retained in its entirety.

Commentary: The following speech given by the German Minister of the Interior, Manfred Kanther, on April 28, 1997 in Bonn is a significant event in the ongoing crypto debate in Germany. Kanther, a member of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's ruling CDU party and a political heavyweight, is known to favor "law and order" positions, but had not previously made a public statement on crypto regulation. The speech is notable for Kanther's hard-line position, which calls for the deposit of keys by users of encryption. At the same time, the speech should not be taken as a statement of the government's position, but rather as the "wish list" of a significant player in the debate. For instance, other ministers (such as the Federal Economics and Justice Ministers) have recently made statements against crypto regulation, although they carry less political clout within the ruling coalition than does Kanther. Thus, the crypto debate in Germany remains far from settled.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Information Society is more than just an expression. It is the result of a technical, economic, and societal development which long ago took on form and shape, and is a great challenge for politics, the economy and society. An industrial nation like Germany should neither close itself to this fact nor to the discussion which must be held concerning it. Much has been said and written about the chances of the Information Society. No one disagrees that Germany as an industrial nation must snatch the opportunities that the Information Society offers in all areas and move forward in this regard if we want to retain our leading role. This is true since information is becoming more and more an economically important factor for production, growth, and business locations.

However, we also cannot reject the challenges presented to the internal security of our country on account of international, cross-border services. We have to contend with reservations, anxieties, and fears which exist regarding any new development. It is thus necessary to find ways to limit the risks presented by the Information Society, to avoid uneasiness and disorientation, and to achieve a high level of acceptance for this development in broad segments of society.

Of course, the new possibilities of modern communication and data processing will also be misused by criminals. Computer criminality has been known to us already for over 20 years. More and more personal data, important business communications, business deals, and financial transactions are being processed and transmitted over modern communications networks. Whatever is done without sufficient security is often practically an invitation to criminals. The fraudulent acquisition of a credit card number by hacking and the corresponding abuse and credit card fraud, or the fraudulent transfer of funds from one account to another, may be done anonymously by the use of electronic means of communication. The perpetrators hide in the anonymity of the networks and destroy their electronic traces, so that a scene of the crime no longer exists. The criminal justice authorities and the police are faced with completely new challenges.

This need not be a reason for resignation. The lead given to perpetrators by technology and the opportunities for abuse connected with it should not be insurmountable for the criminal justice authorities. A realm which is not subject to law should not be allowed to come into being. And here I see a very important role for technology, precisely as a preventative measure. Wherever technology offers possibilities to stop crime at the roots by the integration of corresponding security functions, then there is no need any more for the police and the justice authorities to become active, and certainly not for new laws.

There are now in many areas good examples for the principle of meeting the risks arising from technology with technological means themselves. Think for example of electronic blocking devices in cars, which have allowed us to get a grip on the exploding number of auto thefts, or think of the coding of car radios. In the future, security needs will be able to be and will have to be properly taken into account during the planning of new products and services. In my view this presents also an important task for the BSI. Here one is particularly conscious of creating such security requirements in a continuing dialogue with society and business, and of pointing out good possibilities for protection. However, this is often a challenge for business, and particularly of comprehending the economic opportunities that present themselves in the area of security technology.

Cryptography is a key technology for a secure Information Society, and allows the creation of reliable security in a variety of uses. By use of cryptographic processes we can digitally sign in a secure fashion, carry out secure identity control during access to computers or computer networks, and encrypt information so securely that unauthorized third parties cannot gain access to it.

Encryption to protect confidentiality is a necessary and basic requirement for every serious use of information technology, also for its use by public agencies. Thus, the use of secure and powerful cryptographic procedures is for us essential.

However, this must not lead to a situation where, for example, the wiretapping of telephone calls by gangsters no longer has any value for the criminal justice and security authorities. The legal means of wiretapping must also remain available when telephony is encrypted, which will be the case more and more in the future. The question of whether the use of encryption techniques should be legally regulated is presently being passionately debated. If in several years not only the entire data traffic over the Internet and other networks is encrypted, but also perhaps the classic telephone call, then without any regulation the powers of the criminal justice and security authorities to listen in on telephone and data traffic under the G-10 Law, the Criminal Procedure Code, or the Foreign Trade Law would be practically worthless.

In addition, today there are already technical possibilities to reconcile both interests, i.e., on the one hand to use secure encryption techniques and thus protect the data of our citizens and companies from criminals and economic espionage, and on the other to preserve also the possibility to wiretap conversations by the criminal justice and security authorities.

This can be accomplished by securely depositing the keys used. Any suspicion of misuse can be met by a combination of organizational, personnel, technical, and legal measures. In this respect there is no question of creating new wiretapping possibilities. The objective is to preserve the present informational needs of the criminal justice and security authorities.

Talks with the criminal justice and security authorities on the federal and state level, which we have conducted with increased frequency in the last few months, clearly demonstrate the urgent need to act. They require a regulatory system which requires that the user make mandatory use of systems which allow for legal wiretapping. I find this requirement to be substantively justified. If we expect policemen and -women to put their safety on the line for us, then we must ensure them optimal working conditions.

The opposing arguments cannot stand up to critical examination, for instance the argument that it is possible to hide any text and make it untraceable to the security authorities by the use of steganography. Aside from the overrated security value of steganographic techniques, they will in the foreseeable future not extend to the normal telephone communications which interest the criminal justice and security authorities. Furthermore, experience demonstrates that the possibilities for evasion, which still require one to go to a certain amount of trouble, are generally not used by precisely those in whom we are interested. And even if they are used, the police can in many cases draw certain conclusions therefrom which can promote investigations. The primary goal must therefore be to construct and establish an infrastructure in Germany which sufficiently takes into account the interests of the criminal justice and security authorities. At least in this area, business cannot accuse the Federal Government of not pointing out the legitimate interests of internal security in a timely fashion.

The global networks pose a further significant challenge to domestic policy. Here I would like to contradict those who make sensational arguments that the Internet us a network which primarily serves criminal interests. The same principle that applies in the real world also applies in the virtual world: where there is light, there are also shadows. And you can be sure of one thing: the Internet is not a realm which is not subject to law. We shall concern ourselves with this dark side and will fight it resolutely.

This should not give rise to the impression that legislative and administrative measures have the goal of restricting by preventative or repressive action the legitimate civil rights of citizens, particularly the right of free expression.

Industry's contribution is also important in this area. I would like to expressly welcome the activities of the major service providers to form an organ of voluntary self-control and to produce a uniform code of conduct. In view of the political goal to reduce the role of the state there should be no need for governmental intervention, to the extent that self-regulation by the particular branch of industry leads to comparable or even to better results.

In such cooperation of service providers I also see the basis for successful technical measures against abuse of the Internet by the spreading of illegal and harmful content, since the introduction of uniform, non-proprietary procedures for content classification is the essential condition for corresponding filter programs.

However, we will not be able to avoid a certain contribution by the state. The technical and organizational competence of those authorities responsible for fighting computer crime must be further strengthened. Such authorities can have no lasting successes without the best possible technical equipment and highly-qualified personnel.

The Federal Government has swiftly responded to the need for legislative action to create appropriate conditions for the Information Society by the Information and Communications Services Law, which has already been presented to the public. One of its main elements is Article 3, the Digital Signature Law, which describes the conditions under which an electronic signature - known in international terminology as "digital signature" - can be deemed secure.

The legislative digital signature creates considerable security for our entry into the Information Society by practically excluding the possibility of forging or falsifying "digital documents", or of making such forgeries or falsifications undetectable.

The present draft legislation was drafted from the beginning in close cooperation with experts from business and academia, and is strongly supported by companies and trade associations. The doubts which the Federal Council (Bundesrat) has expressed basically concern private certification authorities and their reliability. The Digital Signature Law and the supplementary Digital Signature Ordinance set clear security goals which must be demonstrably satisfied by operators of certification authorities. A high degree of security is thereby guaranteed which could hardly be higher, even for a public agency.

The Federal Government will, in agreement with business, thus hold fast to the private sector solution. A government solution would also hardly be in harmony with general cries for "slim government".

The BSI stands at the center off all the developments I have described. In past years we have always been able to obtain there competent advice in all questions of information security. The BSI has thus become an important advisor on policy questions.

As the central agency for IT security of the federal government it has also become indispensable for the public administration. I have noticed that its acceptance and resonance within the public administration, as well as in broad circles of the population and in business, is increasing, and that the importance of IT security is penetrating into the consciousness of more and more people in our country, not least because of the work of the BSI.

Since 1993 the BSI conducts approximately 300 consultations on IT security annually. However, the BSI is also active outside the narrow realm of the federal administration. Its competent and neutral advice is also sought when strategic plans are at issue. In cooperation with the German Bundesbank and in the future also with the Federal Office for the Financial Sector, the BSI has begun as a preventative measure to perform security analysis on new payment mechanisms. The first examinations of the electronic purse have been completed. Deficiencies which were discovered, some of them serious, have been notified to the operators, who intend to make corrections. As a neutral institution which is not oriented toward financial gain, the BSI can perform a service for society which otherwise no one could.

A further product of the BSI is the Handbook on Basic Protection that has also found many users in business, owing to the high efficiency with which it allows security to be created. This makes me particularly happy, since I continue to have the impression that business underestimates the dangers which can be caused by defective technology, failures in normal usage, and economic and competitive espionage.

Ladies and Gentleman, the BSI's accomplishments are considerable. Its establishment over six years ago has proven to be correct. Present technical and social developments mean that we need it more than ever. The task now should be to maintain and improve the BSI in its basic conception as a lean, technically-oriented and powerful public agency, and to adapt it properly to the current, quickly-changing conditions. I am confident that this will succeed. I wish the BSI success in its work and hope that this Congress is also successful.

For further information, please contact

Christopher Kuner/Markus Deutsch
Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch Rechtsanwalte
Gartnerweg 2, 60322 Frankfurt/Main
Fax No: ++49/69/95514-198
Tel No: ++49/69/95514-106
E-mail:  Click Contact Link  or
         Click Contact Link 

The article is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. However, the legal situation at the administrative practice of the Regulatory Authority may be subject to changes. Therefore, the article is only a general guide. Specialist advise has to be sought as regards your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions