Not Dark Yet

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The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing entitled “Going Dark: Encryption, Technology, and the Balance Between Public Safety and Privacy” for Wednesday, July 8 at 10:00 a.m., in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Among the witnesses is FBI Director James Comey who is expected to testify that national security and law enforcement officials need their own special access to encrypted material.  The world, he will say, is going dark.

Just in time for this hearing, press reports indicate that some of the world’s leading technical experts have concluded that such exceptional access will have dire consequences:

“Such access will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation-states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend. The costs would be substantial, the damage to innovation severe, and the consequences to economic growth hard to predict. The costs to the developed countries’ soft power and to our moral authority would also be considerable.”

I made just such a point in a recent blog post at InfoWorld, arguing that if you really favor keeping our nation safe and secure, you will oppose mandated access to encrypted material.  Just two weeks ago SIIA joined ITI to warn the President of the risks in compromising encryption.

The world is not dark yet.  It is not even getting there, as Bob Dylan put it. There are plenty of ways for law enforcement and national security agencies to get the information needed to keep us safe and secure.  Compromising encryption just puts us at greater risk.

Mark Mark MacCarthy, Senior Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology. Follow Mark on Twitter at @Mark_MacCarthy.