Congress' Encryption Working Group Agrees "Back Door" Laws are Harmful

The House Judiciary Committee & House Energy and Commerce Committee Encryption Working Group released their year-end report on the ongoing encryption debate between tech companies and law enforcement. While the debate has been going on since encryption became a thing, it was intensified last year after the FBI tried to force Apple to create a backdoor to it’s iOS software on the phone of the San Bernardino shooter’s phone.

The whole document is worth a read, but there are a few things in particular that stood out to me:

Representatives of various private companies told the EWG that a mandate compromising encryption in the U.S. technology sector would simply shift consumers to products offered by foreign companies. These forces might incentivize larger companies to leave the United States, and render small business and other innovators in the field obsolete. If a U.S.-based company moved operations to a country with a more favorable legal regime, the law enforcement and intelligence communities might lose access to everything in that company’s holdings—encrypted or not.

Congressional action in this space should weigh any short-term benefits against the long- term impacts to the national interest. Congress cannot stop bad actors—at home or overseas— from adopting encryption. Therefore, the Committees should explore other strategies to address the needs of the law enforcement community.

This has been the crux of the technology sector’s argument. Even if congress were to weaken encryption at home, or force US based companies to install backdoors for law enforcement, those laws would only affect companies in the US. That would affect their bottom lines and create an incentive for them to leave the country. Not only that, but there are plenty of other options for bad guys to encrypt their data.

Overall, the considerations of the committee are very smart, and it’s clearly falls on the side against “back doors” in encryption.

Congress should not weaken this vital technology because doing so works against the national interest.