Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Patrick J. Leahy, D- Vt., introduced legislation Thursday that they said would increase security and privacy for electronic transactions.

"As more Americans every year use the Internet to conduct business, maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of our computer communications both here and abroad has only grown in importance," Sen. Leahy said.

The bipartisan measure would promote electronic commerce by easing export rules that do not allow for the international use of stronger encryption technology. Companies would be able to choose any kind of encryption process to protect their electronic files.

A nearly identical bill was proposed last year. Opponents contend that the bill would give criminals increased access to the technology and hamper law enforcement efforts in tracking them down.

Encryption is the process used to scramble data to protect it from unauthorized use. - Vicki Needham, Medill Service

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