Just as the Apple-FBI encryption saga comes to a less than illustrious close, a different branch of the US government has decided to also toss in their hat into the circus ring. Last week, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein are finalizing a draft bill that would “effectively prohibit unbreakable encryption and require companies to help the government access data on a computer or mobile device with a warrant.” (And this week, TechCrunch is reporting that the bill is “officially here.”)
As usual, the proponents of the bill mean well:
Their goal, [the Senators] said in a statement, is to ensure adherence to any court order that requires helping law enforcement or providing decrypted information. “No individual or company is above the law.”
Not many things are above the law but they do exist. Mathematics, for example. Logic would be another. I don’t think we need to rehash the arguments for strong encryption; why passing a law that hamstrings it doesn’t work (hint: companies with no presence in the US that sell digital stuff over the internet. It’s known to happen); why the introduction of backdoors is a bad idea; etc. All these arguments have remained the same since the 1990s. Nothing has changed since then, seemingly including the government’s need to legislate what is essentially nature.
At least, the science of cryptography is complex enough that one could be excused for the attempt; confusion, after all, lies at the heart of many bad decisions. It’s not as if the two senators were caught trying to curtail the pi constant to a more manageable number like 3.2 or thereabouts, an act that would require more than confused minds. On the other hand, it’s been less than a month since Congress has held hearings on the iPhone encryption issue – where ample evidence was displayed as to why weakened encryption or encryption backdoors is a bad idea (which, I should remark, were essentially the same arguments made in the 1990s).
Still, here’s a video that explains (and does it simply and very well) the complexities surrounding law enforcement and encryption — and why weakening encryption is a bad idea:
Thankfully, there are representatives that are paying attention:
The draft language ran into opposition from another [Senate Intelligence Committee] member, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who said the proposal would require “American companies to build a backdoor” into devices.
“They would be required by federal law per this statute to decide how to weaken their products to make Americans less safe,” he said. Wyden pledged to do “everything in my power” to prevent the plan from passing.
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