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Description of a key paras 3.10 to 3.13

Description of a key

3.10 The key to the data means any key, code, password, algorithm or other data the use of which, by itself or with another key or keys:

  • allows protected electronic data to be accessed, or
  • facilitates putting protected electronic data into an intelligible form.

3.11 All manner of material can constitute a key. It can include, for example, words, phrases or numbers written on any form of paper, plastic cards bearing numbers, electronic chips or magnetic strips and all forms of removable or fixed media for storing electronic data. Equally key material can be retained in the memory of an individual.

3.12 A key can be a plain language password or pass-phrase. It can be proprietary software that will render intelligible otherwise unintelligible data. A key can comprise more complex material such as algorithms for either or both encryption and decryption of data, and take the form of computer code (in written, source or executable form) or a functional description of the algorithm or code.

3.13 Reference to any key includes split-keys which, when used in combination, form a single key. Circumstances can arise where it is necessary to combine several split-keys before protected information can be made accessible or put into an intelligible form. This may require separate notices to be given to those persons holding the split-keys (either all of them or sufficient number of them) to require them, acting together, to access the protected information or disclose it in an intelligible form. Equally a notice may be served on a holder of a split-key who undertakes to seek the assistance of such other persons holding other parts of the key or holding any other part of the key in order to fulfil a requirement to provide access to the protected information or disclose it in an intelligible form.


How, in real life, does the idea of "split keys" work with the "tipping off" offences ?

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