The Trump Administration is weighing whether it wants to ban end-to-end encryption or not. As the deputies of the National Security Council met at The White House earlier this week, to talk about potentially banning encryption. Which would be a big deal, and mean that users would no longer have any privacy.
These officials met to discuss legislation prohibiting tech companies from rolling out any form of encryption that law enforcement cannot break. This is an issue that has been talked about a lot in the past couple of years. It really came to a head after the San Bernardino shooting in 2015, where law enforcement was unable to crack into the suspects' iPhone and Apple refused to help, as it would set a terrible precedent.
The group had debated whether it should ask Congress to basically ban all end-to-end encryption or not. Some of the biggest tech companies in the US have been rolling out end-to-end encryption in its products over the past few years. This makes users feel more safe, as it is a security feature. But it is also frustrating authorities that are investigating different crimes like child pornography, terrorism and others.
One of the people familiar with the matter said that "the two paths were to either put out a statement or a general position on encryption, and [say] that they would continue to work on a solution, or to ask Congress for legislation." Luckily, for consumers, that meeting did not produce a decision, yet. This likely won't be going away anytime soon though.
End-to-end encryption basically means that the content being sent is encrypted so that only the sender and receiver can read it. The text is scrambled while it's being transmitted. So if someone did intercept it, it would be almost impossible to see what it actually said. Facebook (of all companies) was actually one of the first to roll out end-to-end encryption in its messaging apps. That includes Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Google and Apple soon followed with Allo and iMessage.
It's a double-edged sword for the government. On the one hand, banning end-to-end encryption would make it easier for law enforcement to dig into a suspects smartphone and possibly find a motive, or even find a way to stop what they had planned (by seeing their plans). But the other hand is that, Americans won't feel safe. As just about anyone would be able to read their messages, and that's not a good thing. That is because it wouldn't be limited to just law enforcement either, but really anyone that can hack their way onto a network or a device.
This issue is likely not going to sit on the back-burner for long. And it will likely bring up some pretty heated debate once it does hit Congress. Though it's unsure if it will go to Congress, or if President Trump may just try to sign an executive order to ban end-to-end encryption. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what happens there.