FBI official: No immediate changes to encryption policy under Trump

FBI official: No immediate changes to encryption policy under Trump
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE’s White House has discussed encryption policy with the FBI, a bureau official indicated Wednesday.

James Baker, the FBI’s general counsel, said he is unaware of any planned changes on encryption policy under the new administration.

“There have been some discussions, obviously, about this,” he said at an encryption policy event in Washington, D.C.

“It is a big topic and one that people have discussed,” he continued. “I am not aware of any policy change or even a determination at this point in time, given how soon we are into the new administration.”

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Encryption is a hot-button issue in the ongoing debate about privacy and the federal government’s access to secured communications. While the use of encryption is broadly recognized as important to privacy and cybersecurity, it has created problems for federal investigators as they pursue criminal and counterterrorism cases.

The issue took center stage last year in the legal fight between Apple and the FBI as the bureau fought to access an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting in December 2015.

At the time, Trump argued that Apple should have aided the bureau in accessing the phone, calling for a boycott of the technology company until it did so.

Ultimately, the FBI paid professional hackers to break into the device.

The use of encrypted messaging apps has risen in recent years, as fears over hacking have compounded.

Baker spoke alongside software and legal experts at an event on the burdens placed on law enforcement by encryption that hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday afternoon.

The panelists agreed that the new administration and Congress will likely take up the issue of encryption and other matters related to law enforcement’s access to data.

“I think this will be on the agenda for discussion,” said Victoria Espinel, a former government official and president and CEO of BSA the Software Alliance.

“I hope it’s not on the agenda for discussion because of some horrible event that propels it forward.”