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Short Takes: Justice Department Drops PGP Case

By Dan McGuire
Associate News Editor

The Justice Department decided last Thursday not to prosecute programmer Phil Zimmermann for exporting data encryption software. Zimmermann developed a program known as "Pretty Good Privacy" or PGP.

Encryption programs such as PGP are used to protect files and electronic messages so that only the intended recipient can decode the document. Encryption is also used to authenticate the sender of electronic messages.

In 1991, the software was made freely available on the Internet where international users could download it, a violation of the U.S. ban on the export of strong encryption software, which is treated as a weapon. Zimmermann said he had not placed it there. If convicted, Zimmermann would have faced a maximum fine of $1 million and up to 5 years in prison.

In May of 1994, the Institute released a new, free version of the software. The release resolved a potential patent conflict between an older version of PGP and patents held by MIT and Stanford University for the RSA data encryption algorithm used by PGP. [The New York Times]

Vest, MIT delegation go to Tokyo

President Charles M. Vest and 23 other MIT personnel left today to attend a major meeting of the Alliance for Global Sustainability. The Alliance, announced last October, is a partnership between the Institute, Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, and the University of Tokyo, which studies environmental conservation. Vest will return Friday. [MIT News Office]

Dartmouth charged with modifying job placement numbers

Alice McCarty Baxter has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that in 1994 her supervisor in the student placement office at Dartmouth's Amos Tuck School for Business asked her to modify the 1994 placement numbers to make graduates look more successful in finding jobs. She claims she refused and was asked to resign. Dartmouth denied Baxter's allegations, saying she lost her job in July after her request for long-term disability benefits because of stress-related illness was denied. [Associated Press]

Editor's Note: Short Takes, a new section beginning this issue, will present brief summaries of minor news stories or events peripheral to the Institute. It will appear periodically.