"party" can be a computer system, a communication system, a software process. In the case of data storage, Party A stores the data, while Party B retrieves it. Note that Party A and Party B can be the same party (as is the case when an individual stores a file for his or her own later use).
Under some circumstances, a third party may be authorized for access to data stored or being communicated. For example, law enforcement authorities may be granted legal authorization to obtain surreptitious access to a telephone conversation or a stored data file or record without the knowledge of Parties A or B. The employer of Party A may have the legal right to read all data files for which Party A is responsible or to monitor all communications in which Party A participates. Party A might inadvertently lose access to a data file and wish to recover that access.
In cases when the data involved is unencrypted, the procedures needed to obtain access can be as simple as identifying the relevant file name or as complex as seeking a court order for legal authorization. But when the data involved is encrypted, the procedures needed to obtain access will require the possession of certain critical pieces of information, such as the relevant cryptographic keys.
Third-party access has many twists and turns. When it is necessary for clarity of exposition or meaning, this report uses the phrase "exceptional access" to stress that the situation is not one that was included within the intended bounds of the original transaction, but is an unusual subsequent event. Exceptional access refers to situations in which an authorized party needs and can obtain the plaintext of encrypted data (for storage or communications). The word "exceptional" is used in contrast to the word ''routine" and connotes something unusual about the circumstances under which access is required.
Exceptional access can be divided into three generic categories:
• Government exceptional access refers to the case in which government has a need for access to information under specific circumstances authorized by law. For example, a person might store data files that law enforcement authorities need to prosecute or investigate a crime. Alternatively, two people may be communicating with each other in the planning or commission of a serious crime. Government exceptional access thus refers to the government's need to obtain the relevant information under circumstances authorized by law, and requires a court order (for access to voice or data communications) or a subpoena or search warrant (for access to stored records). Government exceptional access is the focus of Section 3.2. The related signals intelligence need is discussed in Section 3.3.
• Employer (or corporate) exceptional access refers to the case in which