Recently, the federal government issued a staunch warning to technology companies: if you don’t regulate encryption, we will. Encryption is a form of protection that scrambles data so that it can only be accessed by authorized individuals. Law enforcement agencies are opposed to encrypting data, saying that encrypting information prevents necessary access to criminal data. Technology companies and privacy rights advocates, on the other hand, support enacting measures to protect sensitive information.
Law Enforcement Vs. Technology Companies
Law enforcement agencies are required to act in the best interest of the general public. But in the case of encrypting data, they argue that it creates a barrier that prevents them from gaining access to criminal devices. They also say that encrypting data interferes with their ability to communicate using their own internal messaging apps and communications systems.
While law enforcement agencies and the federal government may benefit from easing laws on data decryption, technology companies and privacy rights groups disagree. They say that the public can benefit from laws and regulations that protect their personal data and sensitive information from attack. Technology companies are concerned that failing to encrypt data or creating backdoors exposes people’s data and puts them at risk for attack from hackers, cyber criminals, and even authoritarian governments.
To date, experts have compiled the following statistics about data loss and cyberattacks. As the numbers show, the rate of cyberattacks and hacks is on the rise. The result is a loss in time, money, and confidence among companies and the public.
Technology giants are also looking to high-profile incidents to prevent the government from enacting laws to encrypt data. In 2016, Apple notoriously defied an order from the FBI to unlock an iPhone linked to a terrorist suspect. The company claimed that unlocking the individual’s iPhone using a master key would put all iPhone users at risk and in turn increase the risk of cyberattacks.
The role of Facebook and Apple
Two of the largest companies involved in the debate about whether or not to create laws for encrypting information are Facebook and Apple. After announcing a plan in October 2019 to create more privacy policies for protecting users’ data, Facebook was ordered by the Justice Department to hit the pause button on its plans to encrypt data messaging services. The government reasoned that encrypting messages would hinder its efforts to carry out investigations against child predation.
Following the incident in 2016 when it refused the FBI’s order to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, Apple has stood by its belief that the US government should do more to encrypt data. Although Apple has been looking into possibilities, company representatives say that so far, they haven’t successfully created backdoors only allowing access for “good” authorized users to access sensitive information.
What happens next for encryption regulation?
Although backdoors have not yet been devised to protect data, technology companies and law enforcement officials agree that such an approach would be the best way to find a compromise for harmless data decryption. Since 2016, rumors have been circulating of Facebook’s creation of a specialized software that would provide law enforcement agencies and other restricted authorized users with access to sensitive information. However, the company denied the claim and has not indicated that it possesses such decryption software at this time.
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