DOJ Stumps for Encryption 'Back Doors'

Attorney General Loretta Lynch was unable to make the snow-rejiggered State of the Net conference in Washington Monday, but assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell did and used the event to talk about the importance of prevention as well as prosecution of cyber crime.

Caldwell was essentially making the case for the Administration’s support of encryption "back doors" to be able to access information when it was crucial to an investigation or national security.

She said that with physical communications--letters on actual paper, for example--growing scarce, it was necessary to be able to access e-mails and instant messages that were becoming in accessible to law enforcement.

She said privacy was important but that access to material by law enforcement is also critically important, citing gangs and child abductions and terrorism to make her point.

She also talked about the Garland, Texas, terrorist attack and the 109 messages that were encrypted and thus escaped recognition.

Following that speech, Federal Trade Commissioner Terrell McSweeny said she was, personally, very concerned about government mandating such encryption "back doors"

She said she was not vetting daily intel and recognized the need for law enforcement to have more tools, but said she was "deeply worried" as a regulator overseeing consumer privacy, about mandatory back doors, and said she was personally opposed to them.

She said that particularly as the Internet of Things (IoT) connects homes and cars to the Internet, the country must be "very, very careful"  about doing anything that would undermine that. She said there were some reports suggesting people were slow to adopt IoT technology because of privacy concerns.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.