Politicians Double Down on Encryption Hysteria

Published: December 7, 2015 9:21 PM /


iPhone 6's

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has already called for Silicon Valley to work together with law enforcement on an imaginary middle ground solution that undermines encryption while still protecting privacy. In a recent interview with ABC, she doubled down on her position.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Apple? No more encryption?

CLINTON: This is something I've said for a long time, George. I have to believe that the best minds in the private sector, in the public sector could come together to help us deal with this evolving threat. And you know, I know what the argument is from our friends in the industry. I respect that. Nobody wants to be feeling like their privacy is invaded.

But I also know what the argument is on the other side from law enforcement and security professionals. So, please, let's get together and try to figure out the best way forward.

What Clinton is not mentioning is that the tech industry actually has given this topic some consideration. Creating backdoors or otherwise deliberately undermining encryption makes it easier for everyone to circumvent encryption, not just law enforcement. Criminals and even terrorists stand to benefit from measures that undermine encryption. The best minds in Silicon Valley have come to the conclusion that strong encryption with no backdoors is the best way to protect privacy and security.

During the interview she also mentioned that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter need to do more to prevent terrorists from recruiting and spreading propaganda. This was something which she reiterated during a speech at the Brookings institution. She called on Silicon Valley to "disrupt ISIS." However the New York Times reports that Facebook regularly deletes incendiary posts, and has deleted many accounts believed to be associated with ISIS. It seems the main obstacle for social media companies is the volume of content posted, which makes it very difficult to keep up with terrorists.

Clinton certainly isn't the only politician concerned about encryption. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a press release in advance of Obama's speech yesterday. In the pres release McConnell mentions some security measures he expects the president to take, and he states "He should tell us what legal authorities he needs to defeat encrypted online communications, and what is needed to reestablish our capture, interrogation, and surveillance capabilities." It doesn't get much more blunt than that. He just wants to know what law the President requires to undermine encryption and he will pass it. This is not surprising, since the Senate is already considering legislation regarding encryption backdoors.

McConnell is probably disappointed in Obama's address to the nation. It did not contain any calls for legislation to cripple encryption. There's only really a single sentence that's relevant to that issue, "And that’s why I will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice." The statement is incredibly vague, but he is probably referring to encryption here, as it is usually characterized by politicians and some media outlets as a way for terrorists to evade law enforcement.

Previously, Obama had stated he was not seeking legislation to mandate backdoors, but was interested in discussions with tech companies regarding encryption. Based on this brief statement in the speech, it would appear that his position on the matter is pretty much the same as Clinton's, but its hard to say for certain based on one incredibly vague sentence.

Do any of these politicians actually realize how important encryption is? Leave your comments below.


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