On 23rd June, three Republican senators tabled the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, which will force tech companies to provide access to data encryption following a judge’s ruling.
The three senators, Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, and Marsha Blackburn, would like tech companies to aid police investigations with the encrypted data.
Two Sides of the Coin
There’s no denying that such a law could undoubtedly make it easier for police investigations. However, experts have always argued that this would put users’ privacy at risk.
The tech industry has fought to maintain its integrity when it comes to encryption. The companies themselves don’t get access to encrypted messages, which are only shared between the sender and the recipient. While lawful access doesn’t do away with encryption in its entirety, tech companies argue that it would undermine privacy protections.
Earlier this year, Motherboard launched an investigation that showed the varying success that law enforcement agencies had when gathering evidence from suspects with locked iPhones. Part of the investigation’s findings was that officers didn’t bother obtaining warrants since they were likely not going to get useful data from encrypted devices.
Lawful Access Could Help Curb Terrorism
When announcing the bill in a press release, Sen. Graham cited that the refusal of tech companies to give access to vital data that was encrypted marred the investigation process in past terrorism cases. The bill would, therefore, force these companies to comply with ongoing investigations.
Among other reasons cited for the bill included the protection of children, with the senators placing significant blame on the tech industry. The claims come just months after AG Barr took a swing at Facebook.
The company that owns the largest social media platform and three popular messaging platforms announced its plans to make its messages end-to-end encrypted. Barr felt that this move would hinder the successful working relationship between the company and law enforcement. Previously, Facebook has been of great help in tracking down child predators by giving law enforcement access to the illegal content on the platform.
Encryption is a Life Necessity
Responding to the open letter to Facebook, a spokesperson from the company said that encryption was a necessity of modern life. He added that it was vital in ensuring everyone felt safe, especially in times where they could not be with their loved ones.
The tech giant further added that it would continue working with law enforcement to track down while continuing to protect its billions of users from hackers.
It is not evident how much support the Republican bill will garner. However, privacy experts are already slamming it, and we can only wait and see how this ongoing warfare between governments and the tech industry turns out.