The US, 6 Other Countries in new call for backdoor encryption access
On the 13th October 2020, the US Division of Justice signed on to a new worldwide assertion warning of the hazards of encryption and calling for an industry-wide effort to allow law enforcement agencies to access encrypted information as soon as a warrant has been obtained. The US was joined in the effort by the officers representing the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and Japan.
The statement begins by acknowledging the value of encryption in defending free expression internationally, citing a 2017 report from the UN Human Rights Commission. However, the statement rapidly pivots to the ostensible issues posed by the technology.
‘Specific implementations of encryption technology, nonetheless, pose important challenges to public security,’ the statement reads. ‘We urge the industry to address our severe concerns where encryption is utilized in a method that wholly precludes any authorized entry to content material.’
The Justice Division has a long history of anti-encryption advocacy. In 2018, five of the seven participating countries expressed related misgivings in an open memo to tech firms, though the memo resulted in little to no progress on the problem from the industry. At every flip, tech firms have insisted that any backdoor built for regulation enforcement would inevitably be focused by criminals, and finally leave users much less secure.
Crucially, the seven countries wouldn’t solely seek to access encrypted information in transit — such as the end-to-end encryption utilized by WhatsApp — but also locally saved information just like the contents of a cellphone. That local encryption was on the heart of the 2016 San Bernardino encryption fight, which saw the FBI taking Apple to court to access the contents of a cellphone linked to a workplace shooting.
‘While this statement focuses on the challenges posed by end-to-end encryption that commitment applies throughout the range of encrypted services available, including gadget encryption, customized encrypted applications, and encryption throughout built-in platforms,’ the document continues. ‘We challenge the assertion that public security can’t be protected without compromising privacy or cybersecurity.’