Encryption Working Group Year-End Report, U.S. House of Representatives, Dec. 20, 2016

by Gerry Elman
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Encryption Working Group Releases Year-End Report

The report contains key observations and opportunities for progress

Washington, D.C. –Members of the bipartisan encryption working group – established in March 2016 by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) – today released a year-end report laying out key observations and next steps.

For nearly a year, the Encryption Working Group has held numerous meetings with a variety of federal, state, and local government entities, former government officials, private industry and trade associations, civil society organizations, consultants and legal experts, academia, and cryptographers. These meetings have produced critical information, culminating in a year-end report that lays out four key observations and identifies several areas for future discussion next Congress.

The report concludes:

“Encryption is inexorably tied to our national interests. It is a safeguard for our personal secrets and economic prosperity. It helps to prevent crime and protect national security. The widespread use of encryption technologies also complicates the missions of the law enforcement and intelligence communities. As described in this report, those complications cannot be ignored. This is the reality of modern society. We must strive to find common ground in our collective responsibility: to prevent crime, protect national security, and provide the best possible conditions for peace and prosperity.

“That is why this can no longer be an isolated or binary debate. There is no ‘us versus them,’ or ‘pro-encryption versus law enforcement.’ This conversation implicates everyone and everything that depends on connected technologies—including our law enforcement and intelligence communities. This is a complex challenge that will take time, patience, and cooperation to resolve. The potential consequences of inaction—or overreaction—are too important to allow historical or ideological perspectives to stand in the way of progress.”

Below are key observations of the report.

1. Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest.

2. Encryption technology is a global technology that is widely and increasingly available around the world.

3. The variety of stakeholders, technologies, and other factors create different and divergent challenges with respect to encryption and the “going dark” phenomenon, and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the encryption challenge.

4. Congress should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies.

Based on these observations, the report has identified several areas for future discussion by the committees next Congress, such as exploring opportunities to help law enforcement agencies navigate the process of accessing information from private companies; examining options to improve law enforcement’s ability to leverage metadata; reviewing the circumstances, resources and legal framework necessary to help law enforcement agencies exploit existing flaws in digital products; considering the implications of alternative legal strategies such as compelling individual consumers to decrypt their devices, and the role of encryption in fostering greater data security and privacy.

The members of the working group issuing the report are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), and Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY).

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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