This question titled "Hash Digest Legal Status" was recently asked and closed as off topic. Since I couldn't actually find anything in the FAQ explicitly disallowing such questions, nor any past meta discussion on the topic, I'd like to start one:

Should we allow questions about legal issues related to cryptography? Or about crypto issues related to compliance with legal requirements? And where do we draw the line?

I can see arguments both ways:


  • Like it or not, cryptography and laws are related: historically, the use and export of cryptography has been highly regulated, and in some places it still is. There are also laws mandating the use of specific cryptographic schemes (e.g. for handling sensitive data, or for DRM), and sometimes imposing restrictions on the circumvention of such schemes.

  • There may not be any better place for such questions, at least within the Stack Exchange network. The only plausible alternative I can think of would be Security.SE, and I haven't been active enough there to know if they'd find questions like this any more on topic than we do.


  • We're mostly cryptographers, not lawyers. There might not be anyone here who can answer such questions, and even if there is, the answers may need to be taken with a large grain of salt.

  • Such questions might be seen as falling outside the intended scope of this site, regardless of whether or not they'd be on topic for any other SE site.

(This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of arguments, just what I could think of off the top of my head. Feel free to provide more and/or better arguments in the comments and answers below.)

I should note that we've had some similar questions before; quick searching turns up e.g.:

Both of these questions did get answered and upvoted — in fact, the second one is currently at +5 and has an accepted answer with score +6.


1 Answer 1


Personally I'd lean towards counting those sorts of questions as off-topic in the future (i.e., I don't think we need to do anything with the two you've linked to) and probably migrate them to IT Security. IT security does have a "legal" tag with quite a few questions under it.

@HendrikBrummermann is one of our new moderators and is also a moderator on IT Security, so maybe he can give his thoughts on that aspect.

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    $\begingroup$ On IT security we are not particularly happy about legal questions. But we tolerate them, if we think they are useful for a wide IT-security related audience. But unlike Crypto, IT-security is strongly focused on the practical side and legal aspects play an important role in this context. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ So, only migrate them if they are good, actually security-related questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Hendrik & mikeazo, what do you think about this recent question on SO? It's kind of borderline on SO, and so far has no answers there, but I'm not sure if I should recommend that the OP repost it somewhere else, and if so, where. Would that one be a good fit for security.SE, assuming that it's not on-topic here? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen, hmm, maybe Law.SE. They have a cryptography tag. $\endgroup$
    – mikeazo
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 18:14

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