By Lane Wagner – @wagslane on Twitter
Politicians in the United States have been claiming recently that end-to-end encryption is too dangerous to allow. The movement is serious, and a bill was even introduced which would remove protections that we currently have to be able to legally encrypt information. Lindsey Graham is one such proponent of this restrictive legislation:
Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Trump ally, is targeting giant internet platforms with a child protection measure that could threaten tech companies’ use of encryption and a liability exemption they prize.
End-to-end encryption ( E2EE ) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. In principle, it prevents potential eavesdroppers.
Every production worthy website uses end-to-end encryption in some sense. Data is encrypted when it leaves your computer and is decrypted again as it enters the website’s servers. This makes sure that no malicious third party (which “inconveniently” includes government agencies) can spy on your data.
What governments and politicians would do if they had their way would be to have a “master key” that allows them to decrypt ANY encrypted information. This would be accomplished by forcing security software to include backdoors to their encryption schemes.
The practical problem is that the math behind encryption is already public knowledge. Criminals will ALWAYS have the ability to encrypt data securely without backdoors, no matter what Congress decides. All that a bill restricting encryption rights would accomplish is to put everyone’s personal privacy and security at unnecessary risk.
"If anyone can encrypt and transmit data, criminals will use that technology!" While true, the world can't unlearn math. Outlawing companies' abilities to protect their customer's data doesn't make illicit cryptography more difficult.
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Emotional bills based on irrational fears are rarely a good idea to push quickly through congress. These kinds of proposals are typically used by politicians looking to create a problem that they can subsequently “solve” in order to look the hero.
If the argument for a regulation starts with something like:
- Think of the children
- Terrorists will use it
- Enables criminals and thugs
- Our way of life is being threatened
then it probably deserves a thorough vetting based on evidence, data, and rationality. Laws that go into effect based on emotional hype historically haven’t turned out well:
Lane on Twitter: @wagslane
Lane on Dev.to: wagslane
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