The Encryption Debate Isn’t Taking A Thanksgiving Break

Lawmakers and Congressional staffers may be trickling out of their Hill offices and to the airports, the encryption debate is not taking a holiday this week.

Following media reports that the terrorists responsible for the Paris attacks communicated via encrypted messaging platforms, both opponents and proponents of backdoors for law enforcement are speaking up. Yesterday Senator Ron Wyden published a blistering Medium post, where he outlined the risks of providing backdoors to encrypted communications:

“I am standing up against these dangerous proposals to ensure we act based on the facts, not fear, in the days ahead,” Wyden wrote. “Some are calling for the United States to weaken Americans’ cybersecurity by undermining strong encryption with backdoors for the government. But security experts have shown again and again that weakening encryption will make it easier for foreign hackers, criminals and spies to break into Americans’ bank accounts, health records and phones, without preventing terrorists from “going dark.”

But proponents of backdoors aren’t taking a vacation either. Today lobbying groups representing both district attorneys and police officers throughout the country released a letter calling for legislation that would enable law enforcement to be able to access encrypted communications when they obtain a proper warrant.

“The proliferation of sophisticated encryption technology and other technological barriers have increasingly hindered law enforcement’s ability to lawfully access criminal and terrorist related communications,” said the International Association of Chiefs of Police and National District Attorneys Association. 

The associations released a report that concluded laws are needed that will not provide “safe havens for criminals.”

The report comes after a group of cybersecurity experts released a paper this summer that found it would be impossible to provide a back door to law enforcement that could not be exploited by hackers and criminals.

Reports have even surfaced that the White House may be considering a reversal of its encryption position. Earlier this year, the White House said it would not support legislation that would require companies to breach their own security measures to provide information to law enforcement. But the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that White House staffers have resumed talks with Silicon Valley about the issue.

With both sides adding fuel to the encryption debate, it’s clear that this discussion will not be resolved without a fight in Congress.