FTC Commissioner Says The Public Needs Strong Encryption, Not Backdoors

from the good-move dept

It would appear that the FTC is quickly emerging as the counterforce to the FBI/NSA’s push to backdoor encryption. We recently wrote about how the FTC’s CTO, Ashkan Soltani, put up a blog post extolling the virtues of full disk encryption for devices, noting that it can even help to prevent or solve crimes (contrary to the scare stories you hear from the FBI and other law enforcement officials). And now, pretty quickly after that, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, has written a post for the Huffington Post arguing in favor of strong encryption as well. After discussing the range of threats, as well as the rise of personal data being collected by services, she notes that strong encryption is now being used to better protect consumers:

Encouragingly, many companies are taking meaningful steps to improve their security practices including greater use of encryption technology for data in transit and at rest, whether it be stored in the cloud or on devices. Encryption has helped protect the information of millions of consumers — for example, protecting credit card information when a merchant is breached or protecting passwords when a popular website is hacked. The impact of major breaches may also be reduced the more that users’ data and communications are encrypted end-to-end.

Moreover, there are more products on the market providing consumers with better security and privacy tools — including encryption as the default for information stored on smartphones, apps that use end-to-end encryption, and services that encrypt data on devices and then back them up in the cloud. Competition in the marketplace of security and privacy technology holds considerable promise for consumers.

She also discusses how any attempt to backdoor encryption could create serious harm for future innovation and our economy:

This debate, sometimes called the crypto wars, is hardly new — it has been going on in some form or another for decades. But what is changing is the extent to which we are using connected technology in every facet of our daily lives. If consumers cannot trust the security of their devices, we could end up stymieing innovation and introducing needless risk into our personal security. In this environment, policy makers should carefully weigh the potential impact of any proposals that may weaken privacy and security protections for consumers.

It’s great to see the FTC coming out so publicly on this issue. I hope that others in other parts of the government will do the same as well. Unfortunately, thanks to the overly vocal FBI and NSA, many believe that the entire federal government believes that we should backdoor encryption, and that sets up a very unfortunate “us v. them” attitude between technologists and the government. Instead, it’s clear that many, many people in government support strong encryption and are against backdoors. It’s good to see more of them speaking up and making their voices heard.

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Comments on “FTC Commissioner Says The Public Needs Strong Encryption, Not Backdoors”

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Anonymous Coward says:

These security branches can not have their cake and eat it too. You either dump any sort of security so they can seen in and leave the door open for any hackers that come through to read the database, or you shut the door behind encryption making it not worth while for most hackers, nor for these security agencies to spy into data so that it can be secured when the databases are stolen. It’s one or the other; can’t be both as they are in direct opposition to each other as their purpose.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Just had a thought on this...

Maybe a lawyer out there can answer this one:
Since pretty much everything is copyrighted as soon as it’s created, is it not a DMCA breach to circumvent, for example, the encryption on an encrypted email?
I guess it’d never manage to apply to government spying, but would it not apply to, for example, unscrupulous mobile carriers who have used such things to insert advertising?

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