Tech coalitions pen open letter to Burr and Feinstein over bill banning encryption


This Venn diagram created by TechCrunch summarizes the provisions of the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016.

A group of tech coalitions has written an open letter to Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), concerning their bill requiring all encryption to be breakable on command, which achieved infamy in record time following the leak of a draft earlier this month.

The highly diplomatic letter begins:

We write to express our deep concerns about well-intentioned but ultimately unworkable policies around encryption that would weaken the very defenses we need to protect us from people who want to cause economic and physical harm.

It goes on to point out “unintended consequences” such as compromised security being compromised for bad actors as well as good, and also that any national attempt to hamper the operation of a global industry is foolish and bound to fail and, in failing, damage the reputation and economy of the U.S. (I’m paraphrasing).

The letter is signed by four groups: Reform Government Surveillance, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, and theĀ Entertainment Software Association.

Between the four, most of the major internet and tech companies are represented: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Verisign, and dozens more. (Aol, which owns TechCrunch, is a member of the first two listed.)

It’s likely that the bill, which is completely impracticable and ignores basic facets of the industry which it means to regulate, does not require the opposition of all these companies. It’s not expected to gain any traction in the Senate, and Reuters reported that President Obama won’t be offering his support. Still, a letter like this does no harm, and possibly some good.