Silicon Valley and Security Experts Face Off Over Encryption

A group of 14 preeminent international cryptographers and computer scientists reported that offering government access to encrypted communications puts the world’s confidential data and infrastructure at risk. The report is in response to demands by the U.S. and British governments that technology companies provide a digital key for encrypted data. Conflict has been heating up between privacy advocates and government agencies over encryption, and the report is the latest move by technologists to counter government demands.

news_02_smallThe report is the latest salvo between the two diametrically opposed groups, says The New York Times. Technology companies moved to embrace encryption following revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) and others were hacking digital communications and corporate data centers.

But government and intelligence agencies say the encryption hinders their work against terrorists. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a ban on encrypted messages and, in the U.S., NSA director Michael S. Rogers suggested technology companies be required to create a “digital key” to unlock that data.

This first in-depth analysis of government proposals for an encryption key states that “exceptional access” to encrypted communications is “technically unfeasible and would leave confidential data and critical infrastructure like banks and the power grid at risk… Such access will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation-states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend.”

Meanwhile, on June 24, the Senate Intelligence Committee secretly voted for legislation to require email providers and social media sites to report suspected terrorist activities, reports Ars Technica. The move is in light of a Brookings Institute estimate of 70,000 pro-Islamic State Twitter accounts; terror propaganda accounts violate Twitter’s terms of service and the company has removed tens of thousands of them.

Under the new legislation, terrorist activity could be a tweet, a YouTube video, an account or a communication. Twitter, Google and Facebook have not commented publicly on the legislation.