Clipper Chip

An encryption chip designed under the auspices of the U.S. government. The government’s idea was to enforce use of this chip in all devices that might use encryption, including computers, modems, telephones, and televisions. The government would control the encryption algorithm, thereby giving it the ability to decrypt any messages it recovered.

The Goal of Clipper Chip

The purported goal of this plan was to enable the U.S. government to carry out surveillance on enemies of the state even if they used encryption to protect their messages. However, the Clipper chip created a fierce backlash from both public interest organizations and the computer industry in general. The government eventually retracted its original plan but has since promoted two other plans called Clipper 2 and Clipper 3, respectively.

The Clipper 3 plan allows the use of any encryption technology but stipulates that government law enforcement agencies be able to recover any keys exported out of the country.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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