Privacy protocols that are currently offered by some technology companies have now prompted the US Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, to speak out about the Justice Department’s stance on Encryption. Specifically, Rosenstein took the opportunity presented by his US Naval Academy speech to reach out to lawmakers – hoping for a solution that would allow the department and law enforcement agencies to readily obtain access to encrypted products through court orders. The position is seen by many security proponents as controversial, but Rosenstein took things further by making a point of saying that the leaders of technology companies are not interested in negotiating on the matter. He went on to claim that the tech companies of America are often more willing to compromise and work with foreign government agencies than they are with those in their own country. According to Rosenstein, the companies most often respond by criticizing government efforts to gain that type of access and go further, in some cases, to take the initiative to further bolster their existing encryption measures.
This is not the first time such measures have been suggested but that hasn’t made them any less politically divisive or less difficult to discuss without backlash. Lawmakers put forward proposals similar to what Rosenstein appears to be calling for under the previous presidential administration. Those measures failed to gain traction from either lawmakers or then President Barack Obama. On the other side of the argument, opponents to such measures – including many technologies and cybersecurity experts – disagree that legislation allowing that kind of access would be really helpful. Instead, they claim that such broad access for law enforcement would mostly serve to diminish cybersecurity for everybody involved, from the companies themselves down to their customers. Political opponents, such as Senator Ron Wyden, claim that Rosenstein’s commentary is an attempt to rebrand government backdoors into systems. Wyden goes further to imply that any new rules following Rosenstein’s apparent suggestion would make it “easier for criminals, predators, and foreign hackers to break into” currently encrypted systems.
Of course, whether or not any members of the legislative branch choose to take up the mantle and propose new legislation to regulate how law enforcement can or should access encrypted devices or products is something that remains to be seen. The topic has become something of a hot-button issue over the past several years, as several high-profile cases have centered around law enforcement encountering difficulties in accessing information stored on encrypted devices. Unfortunately, despite frustrations on either side, it also isn’t a matter that’s likely to be resolved anytime soon.