Last week, U.S. President Obama announced the government will no longer be seeking backdoors into encrypted communications. This means the government will not be pursuing legislation to force tech companies to build this capability into their devices, nor will companies be forced to decrypt or decode messages for law enforcement.
The decision was outlined by the Washington Post:
“As the president has said, the United States will work to ensure that malicious actors can be held to account — without weakening our commitment to strong encryption,” National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh said. “As part of those efforts, we are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services.”
This decision to maintain the status quo is a positive step and a big “win” for tech companies and privacy advocates. However, the discussion is far from over:
“The administration has decided not to seek a legislative remedy now, but it makes sense to continue the conversations with industry,” FBI Director James B. Comey said at a Senate hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Oct. 8.
Along with this news it’s been reported that the tone of the encryption discussion has changed, and there is a more positive level of interaction between the government and tech companies.
The decision is good news, but many still have reservations. Even though no legislation requiring backdoors has been enacted, none prohibiting them has been, either. And it’s unlikely the government has abandoned the idea of accessing data. Some believe they’ll simply seek another method that provides access without weakening encryption, or that there will be an ongoing push for encryption backdoors “behind the scenes.”