Congressmen Fight Back Against Proposed Encryption Bans

Published: February 10, 2016 5:54 PM /


US House Seal

In recent months, politicians have gone completely nuts on the topic of encryption. Presidential candidates have made the dangers of encryption a talking point on the campaign trail; two bills are being considered by congress to deal with the issue, one requiring backdoors in encrypted communications and the other merely creates a commission to study the issue; and two states, New York and California, are considering bills banning full disk encryption on phones.

At least two members of congress actually understand the importance of encryption, and are hoping to fight back against these proposals with a bill of their own. The Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications (ENCRYPT) Act of 2016 would prohibit the state legislatures from passing laws to ban encryption or require backdoors. The bill is sponsored Democrat Ted Lieu and Republican Blake Farenthold, showing once again that the encryption issue cuts across party lines.

Lieu is one of only a few members of congress to have a degree in computer science, giving him an insight into the issue other politicians may not have. For as long as politicians have considered mandating backdoors, experts in the tech industry have opposed the idea, arguing that backdoors are a bigger threat to security than the supposed threat of terrorists using encrypted communications. Lieu has articulated a similar position during his time in congress, championing end-to-end encryption and denouncing backdoors during House committee hearings.

This topic hits close to home for Lieu as his home state of California considers a ban on encrypted phones. "I was a little troubled when a New York Republican state legislator introduced a bill to mandate backdoors," Lieu told the Daily Dot, "But I was very troubled when a Democratic state legislator in California did it. I come from the California state legislature, I’m very aware that it’s controlled by Democrats, and I take it as a very serious threat that [they] could get this bill passed."

In defense of the ENCRYPT Act, Lieu has stated that a patchwork of laws that vary by state would, "undermine national security," as well as, "threaten the competitiveness of American companies and dampen innovation." It remains to be seen whether these arguments will persuade a congress in the grip of encryption panic. The full text of the bill can be found here.

Is this bill a positive step in defending encryption? Does it even have a chance of passing? Leave your comments below.


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