On June 12, 2018, the Internet Society hosted a briefing for Congressional staff on Considerations Regarding Encryption and Exceptional Access. The briefing offered an opportunity for participants to learn more about the technical aspects of encryption, and the risks associated with creating back doors or other technical means for exceptional access.
Before beginning the conversation, participants were given a primer on encryption, which offered a high-level explanation of different kinds of encryption and issues related to exceptional access. They watched a video on end-to-end encryption, which used colors to explain how it works. Experts, including Christine Runnegar (Senior Director, Internet Trust, Internet Society), Robyn Greene (Policy Counsel and Government Affairs Lead, Open Technology Institute), and Maurice Turner (Senior Technologist, Center for Democracy and Technology), then engaged in a two-hour, in-depth conversation with participants, answering questions and discussing the global debate.
The panelists emphasized that encryption is an important security tool for the economy. Weakening the security of systems by creating technical means for exceptional access puts its users at greater risk. It could create an entry point for bad actors. Panelists referenced the clipper chips a case where exceptional access created security threats.
Several bills have been introduced in recent years that have implications for encryption. As the global debate around encryption and exceptional access continues, it is important to have an understanding of the issues and what is at stake.
The Internet Society recognizes the concerns of law enforcement and remains firm in its conviction that encryption is an important technical solution that all Internet users should use to protect their communications and data. Legal and technical attempts to limit the use of encryption, even if well-intentioned, will negatively impact the security of law-abiding citizens and of the Internet at large.
To read more on this issue, please see the report, Internet Society-Chatham House Roundtable on Encryption and Lawful Access, and our blog, Encryption and Law Enforcement Can Work Together.