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.

Filed Under: encryption, fbi, ftc, going dark, james comey, mobile encryption, nsa, security, terrell mcsweeny


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Sep 2015 @ 8:14am

    It seems that the law enforcement portion of the Government is the part that has gone rogue. Question is if folks at other parts have enough say in the Executive to restrain law enforcement from taking over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      They do have enough say, the problem is getting them off their lazy "Purchased" asses.

      But we keep voting them in!

      If any founding father of this nation ran of office today they would be excoriated by the general public!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 9:50am

      Re:

      It's all grandstanding. They grandstand and say what the public wants to hear but when it's their turn to actually make decisions or vote on something they vote against the public.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 3:26pm

        Re: Re:

        Um, this is the FTC, not elected representatives.

        The FTC's actually had a pretty good record recently in standing up for the public in congressional hearings and in setting policy.

        What I found telling though is that they talk about protecting consumers, not protecting citizens.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    flyinginn (profile), 4 Sep 2015 @ 8:21am

    At last - a breath of fresh air and sanity after years of FUD, redaction, logic failure and misinformation from the spooks. If someone can get NSA and FBI to turn off the whine spiggot maybe we can begin to trust US hardware again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shill, 4 Sep 2015 @ 8:25am

    Yes, you pirates just want more encryption so that you can hide all the piracy on the Internet. After all the only thing the Internet and encryption are good for is piracy and Google is completely funded by piracy and Techdirt just wants to support encryption to support their Google paymasters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 4 Sep 2015 @ 9:31am

    Soon we will be hearing how members of the FTC have been found to be part of an FBI created terrorist plot or have had an unfortunate "accident".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 9:52am

    But. Piracy. Terrorism. Children.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Shill, 4 Sep 2015 @ 10:22am

      Re:

      Exactly this!!!

      Encryption enables piracy and terrorism which is a threat to our children. Everyone knows the whole purpose of encryption is for piracy and terrorism. That's what all those who invented it were thinking when they thought of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 11:21am

    This just in the NSA looking to ban curtains because it's visual encryption .. doors and windows are next on the list.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 1:09pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 4:01pm

    This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.

    Abraham Lincoln
    First Inaugural Address
    Monday, March 4, 1861

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 10:08pm

    The FTC is working with the terrorists. Obviously!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 5 Sep 2015 @ 3:53am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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