Cybersecurity

Senate Dem will ‘use every power’ to stop anti-encryption bill

Greg Nash

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday vowed to “use every power I have” to block legislation that would weaken encryption.

“Encryption is one of the best defenses an individual has to protect himself or herself in the digital world,” Wyden said during a speech at RightsCon, an annual conference on the future of the Internet.

{mosads}“Without encryption, the technologies we live with would enable thieves to take not only our wallets and purses, but our entire life savings in the blink of an eye,” added Wyden, long considered one of the tech and privacy community’s leading advocates on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers are currently debating whether to move on legislation that would give law enforcement officials greater access to encrypted data.

The conversation has taken on added urgency in the wake of the terror attacks last year in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., and last week in Brussels. Many lawmakers say encryption likely helped the terrorists hide their plans in each case.

In response, Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — leaders of the Intelligence Committee — are working on a measure that would force companies to comply with government requests for locked data.

Apple has recently rebuffed several court orders in which the FBI was seeking the tech giant’s help unlocking iPhones.

Though the Justice Department recently withdrew its effort to get Apple’s help to unlock one of the San Bernardino shooter’s phones, it is still pursuing similar court orders in dozens of other cases.

While law enforcement officials argue they need this access to complete lawful investigations, the tech community says helping investigators would force companies to undermine their security.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) have introduced a bill with bipartisan support that would establish a national commission to study how police can get at people’s encrypted data without endangering Americans’ privacy.

In Wyden’s remarks Wednesday, the Oregon Democrat outlined a “New Compact for Security and Liberty in the Digital Age.”

The first component of that compact was ensuring strong encryption.

“Without encryption, the most personal affairs of every individual, whom they spend time with, where they go and what they think could be laid bare despite their best efforts to keep that information private,” Wyden said.

The senator said he would renew his efforts to get his Secure Data Act passed. The measure, initially introduced in 2014, would ban the government from requiring companies to weaken their products.

“The Justice Department is trying to claim that the government has that power today,” he said. “They dropped a high-profile case this week, but as sure as the night follows the day, they will be back.”

Tags Dianne Feinstein Mark Warner Richard Burr Ron Wyden

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