Congress Releases Encryption Report
Wednesday, December 21, 2016 | Comments

Members of the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committees bipartisan encryption working group, established in March 2016, released a year-end report laying out key observations and next steps.

For nearly a year, the encryption working group has held numerous meetings with a variety of federal, state and local government entities; former government officials; private industry and trade associations; civil society organizations; consultants and legal experts; academia; and cryptographers. The meetings produced critical information, culminating in a year-end report that lays out four key observations and identifies several areas for future discussion for the next Congress.

“Encryption is inexorably tied to our national interests,” the report said. “It is a safeguard for our personal secrets and economic prosperity. It helps to prevent crime and protect national security. The widespread use of encryption technologies also complicates the missions of the law enforcement and intelligence communities. As described in this report, those complications cannot be ignored. This is the reality of modern society. We must strive to find common ground in our collective responsibility: to prevent crime, protect national security, and provide the best possible conditions for peace and prosperity.”

Following are key observations of the report:

1. Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest.
2. Encryption technology is a global technology that is widely and increasingly available around the world.
3. The variety of stakeholders, technologies and other factors create different and divergent challenges with respect to encryption and the “going dark” phenomenon, and therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the encryption challenge.
4. Congress should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies.

Based on these observations, the report has identified several areas for future discussion by the next Congress. These include exploring opportunities to help law enforcement agencies navigate the process of accessing information from private companies; examining options to improve law enforcement’s ability to leverage metadata; reviewing the circumstances, resources and legal framework necessary to help law enforcement agencies exploit existing flaws in digital products; considering the implications of alternative legal strategies such as compelling individual consumers to decrypt their devices and the role of encryption in fostering greater data security and privacy.

The full report can be viewed here.

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