Tech Groups Tout Hill Shout-Out for Encryption

Tech groups are praising the new report from the House Energy & Commerce and House Judiciary Committees' joint working group on encryption.

The working group released the report Tuesday, which essentially said that encryption was vital and government and industry needed to find the right balance between privacy and security that does not threaten encryption, which is vital to personal and national security.

The Information Technology Industry Council's (ITI) members include Apple, a prominent figure in the encryption vs. privacy debate that helped prompt the report, as well as Google, Microsoft, Nielsen and Samsung.

"The working group makes it clear that ‘any measure weakening encryption works against the national interest.’ They recognize there are no easy answers because of the trade-offs that would occur for the security and safety of Americans by placing restrictions or limitations on encryption.” said ITI SVP Government Affairs Andy Halataei. “Reading the report, you really get a sense that these Members of Congress engaged in a serious and thoughtful process to understand the critical role strong encryption plays in our security.  We look forward working with lawmakers to continue the dialogue on strong cybersecurity and safety in the next Congress."

"We commend the committee and its findings that strong encryption is important to the national interest, and any attempts to weaken it would reduce the overall security of citizens and businesses, reduce the competitiveness of U.S. products and services abroad, and fail to keep this technology out of the hands of criminals and terrorists," says Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) VP Daniel Castro.

Some in the law enforcement community have pushed tech companies, most notably Apple, to create "back doors" and work-arounds to encryption, but they have resisted, suggesting that privacy-compromising genii could not be kept in the law enforcement bottle.

"The biggest strength of this year-end report is the questions it raises," said Castro. "The next Congress should pick up where this report left off and explore improvements to law enforcement’s ability to request information, establish clear rules for how and when law enforcement can engage in legal hacking [exploiting existing weaknesses as contrasted with them being specifically built in to allow access], and improve how the government can work in partnership with the private sector to address national security threats. Furthermore, Congress should study whether legislation can help U.S. courts better balance the interests of the individual and the state by allowing law enforcement to compel individuals to decrypt data."

The Computer & Communications Industry Association joined the chorus.

“This report is welcome news for those who care about personal, economic, and national security," said CCIA president Ed Black. "We are glad that after close examination of the security and technical issues, these leading lawmakers understand the considerable stakes and support strong encryption. Deploying weakened forms of encryption in online services and consumer devices is shortsighted and would play directly into the hands of those who would do us harm.”

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.