Police chiefs, DAs call for backdoor data access

Police chiefs, DAs call for backdoor data access
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Police chiefs and prosecutors around the country on Tuesday launched a renewed campaign for legislation that would give investigators access to encrypted communications.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) said in a release they were joining forces to “press for immediate action to address this critical threat.”

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Encryption has been thrust in the spotlight following the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. Officials and lawmakers have said they believe the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) members behind assault likely conducted their planning over encrypted communication platforms, shielding them from intelligence agencies.

Although no evidence has been presented to back up these claims, the belief has given new momentum to law enforcement agencies' long-standing argument that they should have guaranteed "backdoor" access to encrypted data when armed with a warrant.

“The proliferation of sophisticated encryption technology and other technological barriers have increasingly hindered law enforcement’s ability to lawfully access criminal and terrorist-related communications,” the two organizations said in the release.

Security experts and tech companies have fought back, arguing that any such guarantee would be ruinous for digital privacy and expose all secured data to hackers.

The Information Technology Industry Council, one of the country’s leading tech sector groups, last week rejected calls from those seeking access to secure data.

“Weakening encryption or creating backdoors to encrypted devices and data for use by the good guys would actually create vulnerabilities to be exploited by the bad guys, which would almost certainly cause serious physical and financial harm across our society and our economy,” the council's CEO, Dean Garfield, said in a statement.

But the chiefs and prosecutors on Tuesday said they would push for legislative action to change the laws that govern access to digital data, including the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

“IACP and NDAA are committed to finding a solution to this critical issue, which balances the needs of the law enforcement community with protecting the public’s right to privacy,” the groups said.