In an open letter to President Obama, 143 of the nation’s most well-known businesses, trade associations, academics, and organizations urged the President to promote strong encryption technologies. The letter was prompted by recent law enforcement (including the FBI and NSA) advocacy for built-in government access to encrypted data despite a December 2013 recommendation by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to support encryption without such vulnerabilities.
As the letter states, strong encryption helps protect individuals and organizations from street criminals pilfering information from stolen devices; computer criminals from defrauding individuals to steal their identities; corporate spies from stealing trade secrets; repressive governments from stifling dissent; and foreign intelligence agencies from stealing national security secrets. The letter argues that any attempt to provide law enforcement with an encryption key leaves individuals and companies vulnerable to such bad actors.
According to the letter, the technology industry largely agrees that built-in encryption vulnerabilities for law enforcement: (1) undermine cybersecurity (by building in a vulnerability that bad actors will invariably hack); (2) undermine economic security (by making it even harder for American companies to maintain international trust in a post-Snowden world); and (3) undermine human rights (by opening the door for similar state-mandated access from dangerous and repressive regimes).
The open letter is directed at an Administration grappling with important policy choices, though legislation on the matter has yet to be introduced. Companies responsible for protecting data and responding to law enforcement requests should remain involved in the conversation, stay up-to-date with any developments, and continue to seek counsel when balancing competing interests.