Justice official pushes Silicon Valley for ‘responsible’ encryption

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (U.S. Marshals photo)

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A top Justice Department official reignited the federal encryption debate this week, calling for Silicon Valley to provide an avenue for law enforcement to access encrypted digital evidence that is stored and transferred by private technology companies.

CyberScoop’s Chris Bing reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein described in a speech as “responsible encryption,” vaguely defining it as encryption that is able to “protect privacy and promote security without forfeiting access for legitimate law enforcement needs supported by judicial approval.”

Privacy and security advocates say that making such a compromise would effectively weaken encryption technology writ large because it would require creating an inherent vulnerability in the process. Rosenstein, like his predecessors, believes this arrangement wouldn’t have a negative consequence on cybersecurity significant enough to warrant a different strategy.

“When encryption is designed with no means of lawful access, it allows terrorists, drug dealers, child molesters, fraudsters, and other criminals to hide incriminating evidence,” Rosenstein said. “Mass-market products and services incorporating warrant-proof encryption are now the norm.”

Lawmakers, however, balked at the idea.

In a statement sent to CyberScoop, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden described Rostenstein’s comments as unproductive.

“Despite [Rosenstein’s] attempts at rebranding, a government backdoor by another name will still make it easier for criminals, predators and foreign hackers to break into our phones and computers,” Wyden said. “The Department of Justice should be using their bully pulpit to promote the adoption of strong encryption and other defensive cybersecurity technologies, not demonizing companies who are attempting to protect their customers’ private data and compete on cybersecurity.”

Read more about Rosenstein’s “responsible” encryption on CyberScoop.

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CyberScoop, encryption, FBI