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Selective encryption is a technique to save computational complexity or enable interesting new system functionality by only encrypting a portion of a compressed bitstream while still achieving adequate security. Although suggested in a number of specific cases, selective encryption could be much more widely used in consumer electronic applications ranging from mobile multimedia terminals through digital cameras were it subjected to a more thorough security analysis. We describe selective encryption and develop a simple scaler quantizer example to demonstrate the power of the concept, list a number of potential consumer electronics applications, and then describe an appropriate method for developing and analyzing selective encryption for particular compression algorithms. We summarize results from application of this method to the MPEG-2 video compression algorithm.