Dutch Government Supports Encryption, Opposes Backdoors

from the living-in-fear-isn't-for-us,-thanks dept

Running somewhat against the grain of the current political climate, the Netherlands government has issued a statement strongly supporting encryption (for everyone, not just the government) and against the idea of intelligence/law enforcement backdoors. Patrick Howell O’Neill of the Daily Dot has the details:

The Dutch executive cabinet endorsed “the importance of strong encryption for Internet security to support the protection of privacy for citizens, companies, the government, and the entire Dutch economy,” Ard van der Steur, the Dutch minister of security and justice, wrote in the statement. “Therefore, the government believes that it is currently not desirable to take legal measures against the development, availability and use of encryption within the Netherlands.”

This statement of support contrasts with recent efforts by European countries to institute encryption bans or backdoors. This is also somewhat at odds with recent efforts by this same government to grant greater surveillance and hacking powers to its intelligence/law enforcement agencies.

The statement also hedges its pro-encryption stance slightly. While generally opposed to mandatory backdoors, it does suggest service providers with the power to decrypt communications may be required to do so at the request of the government. The concluding paragraphs of the statement hint that investigatory/national security “needs” may occasionally outweigh the greater good of secured communications.

But overall, the pro-encryption statement shows this government understands the net positive of strong encryption. Sure, it may occasionally hinder investigators or intelligence operations, but it also defends against foreign surveillance efforts, state-sponsored attacks and criminals.

As O’Neill points out, the Netherlands may become something of a “safe harbor” for tech companies looking to protect their customers from neighboring governments who have opted to fight the War on Terror by engaging in a War on Encryption.

If strong end-to-end encryption is banned in major Western nations, countries like the Netherlands may become important islands of legal cryptography that stymie anti-encryption efforts.

The debate over encryption has gotten to the point where encryption-friendly countries are viewed as pockets of resistance by their neighbors — which is truly perverse, considering the efforts will do more to keep bad guys out than provide shelter for wrongdoers.

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Comments on “Dutch Government Supports Encryption, Opposes Backdoors”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Why can't smart people solve this?

The Dutch should focus on developing encryption that is not encrypted.

And locked locks that are unlocked when they are locked.

And windows that are only transparent if you are looking into someone’s house for a legitimate purpose, otherwise the windows are opaque.

Golden Keys to open Back Doors that only work for good guys, assuming you can even define who the good guys are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why can't smart people solve this?

I think what’s happened is that the Dutch have seen that “good guys” has been defined as the US government. Since the Netherlands aren’t part of the US government, this means that Golden Keys to their data will be held by a foreign state if they are made. Ergo, no Golden Keys.

Anonymous Coward says:

How long before they get targeted for the US then for not toeing the party line I wonder.

Will it be sanctions, sabotage and assassinations, overthrowing their government to set up a more friendly one or just dropping bombs on them from afar.

This isn’t sarcasm as that’s what the US government does when foreign governments oppose them and their ideals.

frank87 (profile) says:

The devil in the details

Some points that can spoil the fun:
1. Your privacy can be invaded to prevent you from doing something illegal (“het voorkomen van strafbare feiten”). Here’s the thought police.
2. They will force you, and your IT provider to decrypt everything. (So if the US get’s the golden key, the Dutch government will try to get it from the providers).

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