Wyden praises Obama's encryption decision

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed America can end poverty among its elderly citizens Congress needs to step up on crypto, or Biden might crush it MORE (D-Ore.) on Tuesday cheered the Obama administration’s decision not to pursue legislation that would require companies to give law enforcement access to encrypted data.

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“This is a win for Americans’ security and their privacy,” Wyden said in a statement. “It took a dedicated campaign by tech companies, security experts and lawmakers from both parties to convince the president that weakening cybersecurity is a bad idea.”

The White House has been debating whether the government should require companies to build their products in such a way that investigators could bypass encryption if needed.

Privacy groups, Silicon Valley and a vocal coalition in Congress have maintained that mandated access would only weaken online privacy and expose data to hackers.

Law enforcement agencies insist that encrypted devices hamper investigations, making it difficult for authorities to access the devices of both victims and suspects who refuse to turn over their passcodes.

The White House announced last week that going forward, it will engage tech firms directly on potential methods of bypassing encryption, rather than press Congress for legislation.

Wyden has been a fierce opponent of law enforcement’s call for legislation, introducing a bill in December that would ban government-mandated “backdoors.”

“This bill sends a message to leaders of those agencies to stop recklessly pushing for new ways to vacuum up Americans’ private information, and instead put that effort into rebuilding public trust,” Wyden said of the legislation.

The privacy-minded senator said Tuesday that he did not anticipate the debate over encryption to cool with the president’s announcement.

“I’m going to stay vigilant, because I expect that these proposals will resurface at some point down the road,” Wyden said. “This wasn’t the first time that these proposals were raised and it probably won’t be the last.”  

More security-centric lawmakers have already pressed Obama on his decision.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyLawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Fill the Eastern District of Virginia  MORE (R-Iowa) sent a letter to the Justice Department on Thursday asking why the White House had moved away from its original position in favor of guaranteed access.

"I believe that the administration should use every lawful tool at its disposal and vigorously investigate each and every potential solution to this serious problem, as your testimony before the Committee implied it would," Grassley said.