US Democrats Call on Barr to Stop Opposing Encryption

US Attorney General, William Barr, has been carrying out a campaign to kill effective encryption. Democrats are telling him to knock it off.

US Attorney General, William Barr, has been waging a war on effective security. Barr helped to initiate a joint letter to Facebook demanding that it abandons its effort to secure their users through encryption. The letter was co-signed by representatives from the UK and Australia. Later on, Germany would join in on this effort to put an end to effective security.

The initiative didn’t go unopposed, though. In response, more than 100 rights organizations banded together to send a joint open letter of their own calling on Facebook to continue with plans to implement encryption plans to help protect users from prying eyes. Edward Snowden also joined in on the debate saying that without encryption, society loses all privacy.

Still, that didn’t stop the UK from calling on Nick Clegg, a senior Facebook representative, to testify before MPs. The move at the time was called “extraordinary”. Facebook did say that they support encryption and would later go on to announce an expansion of their encryption efforts to cover audio and video calls as well. In addition, former FBI and DoJ official, Jim Baker, commented on the debate, saying that encryption is a reality and that government has to suck it up and deal with that reality.

Suffice to say, this is quite the explosive debate with both sides really digging in. Now, it seems that two US Democrats are weighing in on the debate as well. Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Congress representative, Anna Eshoo (California) sent a letter to William Barr calling on him to stop opposing effective encryption. From The Hill:

A pair of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Thursday urging him to stop government requests for encryption backdoors, which allow the government to obtain certain user information from tech companies.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) argued that the Justice Department’s push to limit such encryption “is not just hypocritical, but it has been repeatedly criticized by cryptographers and other leading cybersecurity experts.”

“We urge you to stop demanding that private companies purposefully weaken their encryption for the false pretense of protecting children,” the lawmakers wrote.

In short, they told him to knock it off and leave the private companies alone. It’s certainly not an unreasonable position to make. In fact, the US wanted to open an investigation into TikTok over fears that China might somehow have access to user content. As we pointed out at the time, the US is demanding similar access to user content, yet takes serious issue when another country might be rumoured to have the same access. Ultimately, trying to have it both ways seriously hurts the position of the US on this debate.

What difference this letter makes remain to be seen. Still, it shows that this debate is continuing to rage. It certainly shows no signs of slowing down.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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