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ARRL Frowns Upon Encryption Petition

“There is no expectation of privacy in amateur radio communications,” group says

The ARRL, the amateur radio group, is urging the FCC to deny a Petition for Rule Making, RM-11699, allowing for an exception to the Part 97.113 law prohibiting encryption of amateur radio communication.

The filer, Don Rolph, argues that the current prohibition of “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning,” prevents amateur radio users from being utilized or enhanced for disaster and emergency relief communications and, additionally, “has impacted the relationship of amateur radio volunteers and served agencies and significantly limited the effectiveness of amateurs in supporting emergency communications.” 

The ARRL counters that is “unaware of any evidence that served agencies have been reluctant to utilize amateur radio as part of their emergency or disaster relief communications plans because of the encryption restrictions in Part 97.”

According to the ARRL, Rolph insisted that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act also required that communications be encrypted. The ARRL said it had also not found any evidence of such a concern.

It summarized that HIPAA did not apply to amateur radio but rather to “health care providers, health plans and health care clearinghouses” and “there is no expectation of privacy in amateur radio communications.”

It concluded, “Amateur radio’s utility to served agencies in supporting emergency communication … is at the present time unfettered by the inability to encrypt transmissions.” It added that if legislation such as HIPAA generates an encryption concern that the FCC could then revisit the matter.