Cryptography may be complicated, but the political divisions it has caused are anything but. Data encryption issues burst into mainstream business headlines this year precisely because of a clear conflict between government and private-sector interests.

While bankers, others in the corporate community, and consumer- privacy advocates were eagerly awaiting the designation of a replacement for the aging federal Data Encryption Standard, spy and surveillance agencies wanted to preserve their ability to decode messages when necessary for national security or law enforcement.

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