After Demanding Backdoor Access, US Concerned China Asks Same

The US has been demanding more backdoor access to encrypted communications. Now, senators are concerned about China demanding backdoor access.

When Facebook said it would implement end-to-end encryption, US politicians were up in arms over it. In fact, US Attorney General, William Barr, sent a joint letter to Facebook along with allies in the UK and Australia to demand Facebook cease its encryption plans.

That pressure to put an end to what they call “warrant proof” encryption was then later stepped up. More recently, US Senators held hearings with the tech community. After hearing arguments about how encryption is the bedrock of a safer and functional Internet, Senators issued an ultimatum: either give us back door access willingly, or we’ll legislate you into giving it to us. Facebook wound up being particularly gutsy because they would then send a joint letter to Barr saying that they won’t weaken their security for the government.

While this standoff between security and government spying has long and deep roots into the past, this pressure has been particularly prominent in the last year or so. US Democrats, for their part, sent a joint letter demanding that Barr stop opposing effective security. Among the criticisms is the fact that it’s hypocritical to take up such a position.

Now, we are seeing a curious development. On January 1st, China just so happened to have their backdoor access legislation come into force. For some, it is less surprising that the Chinese government would demand such access. After all, China is very famous for having “The Great Firewall of China”, so demanding more access to encrypted communications, as troubling as it is, is not exactly surprising.

So, now that China is demanding backdoor access, how are US senators reacting? It seems that they are furious and suggesting that all this is a ploy to steal American intellectual property among other things. From The Epoch Times:

The new rules are potentially alarming, as foreign companies operating in China won’t be able to keep their data secret from the Chinese communist regime.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) who is closely watching recent moves by Beijing, urged U.S. companies to stop working with the regime.

The new law is the latest instrument the Chinese regime is using “to steal U.S. technology, intellectual property, and personal data,” Scott’s office told The Epoch Times in an email.

“Senator Scott has been clear that American businesses, hospitals, and universities must be vigilant and proactive when it comes to the threat of Communist China, and should stop doing business with the regime.”

Companies use encryption technology to protect the confidentiality of information transmitted and stored on networks. No foreign company, however, will be able to encrypt its data or communication if China enforces the new rules.

Scott, who’s an outspoken critic of the Beijing regime, earlier warned that Communist China’s goal is “to control the entire world.”

“I think all of us have to understand if we give data to China, they can use it against us,” he told CNBC on Nov. 18, 2019.

“We have to be absolutely clear we are not going to do business with China and let them have our information,” he said, calling for a wider decoupling— loosening of trade and economic ties—of the United States and China.

According to author and China expert Gordon Chang, Beijing’s goal is to control all communications, data, and other information stored in electronic form that belong to foreign companies.

In other words, demanding backdoor access is only OK when we do it.

Perhaps the icing on the cake is the fact that the Senators are urging companies to no longer work in or with the Chinese government. As we’ve pointed out many times in the past, implementing laws banning effective security would cause businesses to flee the countries that implemented those laws. This isn’t mere speculation, but rather, the exact story that played out in Australia. The Senators reaction is almost point for point why business, innovation, and investment would exodus out of countries that implement such laws. While we pointed out that if the US did the same thing, the exact same reaction would occur, it seems that Republican Senators are finding themselves proving our point a third time now.

So, in the process of levelling criticism against China, US Senators have basically laid out exactly why the US shouldn’t be pursuing similar laws. Some might say that things are different in the US and that authorities are only using this access to go after “the bad guys”. The fact is, the Australian government made these exact same arguments. In turn, they then used those same laws to raid the offices of journalists publishing content critical of the government. Others might take the American exceptionalism rout and say that America is fair and would never use the laws for evil because America is a civil and democratic society. Arguably, so is Australia and it didn’t exactly stop them from abusing this new-found power.

Ultimately, those who argued that this policy against encryption would ultimately weaken America’s position in the world were proven correct today. How can one take the US calls against the new Chinese law seriously when these same politicians are demanding the exact same things back at home? As those Democrats pointed out previously, it is hypocritical.

So, with the US demanding China back off of anti-encryption laws, a collective facepalm from the security and technology community shouldn’t come as a surprise to observers.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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