NY Times: NSA Should Be Barred From Requiring Companies To Introduce Surveillance Backdoors
from the good-for-them dept
This is a bit surprising, given the source, but the NY Times editorial board has come out strongly against the NSA’s practice of forcing companies to install backdoors in no uncertain terms:
These back doors and special access routes are a terrible idea, another example of the intelligence community’s overreach. Companies and individuals are increasingly putting their most confidential data on cloud storage services, and need to rely on assurances their data will be secure. Knowing that encryption has been deliberately weakened will undermine confidence in these systems and interfere with commerce.
The back doors also strip away the expectations of privacy that individuals, businesses and governments have in ordinary communications. If back doors are built into systems by the N.S.A., who is to say that other countries’ spy agencies — or hackers, pirates and terrorists — won’t discover and exploit them?
In two short paragraphs, the editorial gets right to the heart of the problem. The “cost” to having these backdoors is undeniably huge in terms of trust and privacy. The harm to individuals and businesses is tremendous, but the benefits are, at best, minor. We get vague discussions about stopping some terrorist attacks, but still others get through. Yet, in every day life there are risks. It’s ridiculous to expect 100% perfection in stopping terrorists, and when we go way too far in trying to stop every attack, we lead to unintended consequences such as destroying privacy and harming the ability of companies to build better, more secure products.
Surprisingly, again, the NY Times then speaks out in support of a bill from Rep. Rush Holt that would make it illegal for the government to require backdoors in various products. This would be a huge step in enabling the US tech industry to move forward with more secure encryption.
Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, has introduced a bill that would, among other provisions, bar the government from requiring software makers to insert built-in ways to bypass encryption. It deserves full Congressional support. In the meantime, several Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, are building encryption systems that will be much more difficult for the N.S.A. to penetrate, forced to assure their customers that they are not a secret partner with the dark side of their own government.
This is unlikely to happen, unfortunately. The DOJ, for years, has been pushing for even more backdoors. And, you may recall, just a month or so before the Snowden leaks, the DOJ wanted the power to fine companies who wouldn’t install surveillance backdoors. The law enforcement world would go absolutely ballistic, should Holt’s bill ever get near becoming law.