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Encryption: Draft legislation to boost key-escrow encryption technology has been circulated on Capitol Hill by the Department of Justice. The measure, opposed by libertarian groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology, establishes a legal framework for companies that want to make a business storing and verifying people's encryption keys. The legislation also provides protection from lawsuits for key-escrow companies that hand over copies of other people's keys upon receipt of a court-ordered wiretap. Industry groups are already promoting rival bills that would sharply reduce government influence over encryption technology.
R&D Spending: Federal research and development will decline by 14 percent over the next four years if President Bill Clinton's budget plan is executed, according to a paper released by the Washington-based American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is largely funded by universities. R&D spending in 1998 is likely to be $75 billion, according to the report.
But after excluding spending on engineering, upgrading and testing of programs, federal R&D spending for 1998 is only $45.3 billion, according to a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences, based in Washington. That $45.3 billion estimate shows a 3.4 percent decline from 1994, says the NAS.
Research Funding: The controversial Advanced Technology Program will go through the congressional wringer again this year. "It is my intention to zero out this program," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee which oversees the program's budget. The program, run by the Commerce Department, distributes research and development funds to promising projects. To save the program, which was given $225 million in 1997, representatives from the Coalition for Technology Partnerships and the Science Engineering and Technology Workgroup will lobby Congress in mid-April. The groups include 150 companies and associations, including IBM Corp.
Smut Filtering: Reps. Joseph McDade, R-Pa., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., have introduced bills to promote the use of smut-filtering software on the Internet. The industry-backed technology is advertised by companies as an alternative to government regulation of the Internet, but is opposed by some libertarians who say it restricts the free flow of information.
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