Encryption vs. Law Enforcement: Congress Gets Involved

Lawmakers this week will begin what could be a long debate over encryption and the role of technology companies, with people on all sides of the debate discussing the law enforcement and privacy implications of the controversial issue.

Lawmakers this week will begin what could be a long debate over encryption and the role of technology companies, with people on all sides of the debate discussing the law enforcement and privacy implications of the controversial issue.

The House Oversight committee’s information technology subcommittee will hold the first hearings on this controversial issue Wednesday, as lawmakers ponder whether to force tech companies to provide the government access to encrypted data.

In the wake of the Snowden leaks and the resulting outcry over privacy, Google and Apple began encrypting communications last year, in a way that law enforcement can’t access – not even with a warrant. Then, in September, Apple announced smartphones with the iOS 8 operating system would be equipped with a unique digital key that can be used only by its owner.

Apple made the announcement after the Supreme Court ruled that police in most circumstances need a search warrant to collect information stored on phones.

But law enforcement officials say encryption hinders their work. National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rodgers recently offered a solution: A multi-part digital key that can open any smartphone or other locked device to obtain encrypted text messages or photos – but no one person or agency alone could hold all the parts, so it could only be cracked if all sides decided to use it, according to the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima.

“I don’t want a back door,” Rogers said. “I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks.”

The hearing will be held Wednesday, at 2 p.m., in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Join the conversation. Post a comment below or email me at bglanz@300brand.com.

Bill Glanz
About Bill Glanz
Bill Glanz is the content director for MeriTalk and its Exchange communities. Over the past 14 years, he has worked as a business reporter, press secretary, and media relations director in Washington, D.C.
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