Updated: Oct 14, 2020
As a founding member and staunch advocate for secure end-to-end encryption, LGBT Tech is proud to join the Global Encryption Coalition along with over 80 experts and organizations in condemning the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act.
Read the full letter below to learn more.
July 7, 2020
The Honorable Lindsey Graham Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Marsha Blackburn Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Tom Cotton Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Dear Senators Graham, Blackburn, and Cotton:
The undersigned organizations and security experts from civil society, industry and academia express our strong opposition to the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, S. 4051.The bill’s language as drafted is seriously flawed and could endanger public and national security.
The bill would expose millions of Americans—and people around the world who use American products and services—to substantially higher risk from malicious cyber actors, including hostile states and cyber criminals. This bill would require companies to build encryption backdoors. In some cases this would be by default. In others, backdoors would be linked to nine new or expanded requirements for companies or people to comply with government demands for “technical assistance” in law enforcement investigations. The definitions of “technical assistance” explicitly include “decrypting” information. Thus the bill’s requirements are so broad that it would effectively force recipients to build and maintain encryption backdoors to provide the data when requested. Such requirements would seriously weaken security; as highlighted by experts, including former senior national security and law enforcement officials, in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s 2019 report Moving the Encryption Policy Conversation Forward.
The bill’s flawed premise is evident in its findings. As currently written, it states that strong encryption is dangerous and it facilitates “criminal activity,” without acknowledging that end-to-end encryption protects all people and is vital to many sectors of the economy, from banking to healthcare. Further, the bill’s findings fail to recognize the magnitude of vulnerability it would create for hundreds of millions of Americans who rely on strong encryption every day of their lives, especially as the global pandemic shifts much of their lives online.
Interviews with hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have shown that the largest barrier to law enforcement when dealing with modern communications systems is not encryption. Rather, it is an inability to leverage the data they currently have or could have access to. The intent of the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act may be to promote public safety, but regardless of how law enforcement or legislators attempt to require exceptional access to encrypted communications, the result is the same: it would put the safety and security of Internet users in danger at a moment when a devastating pandemic has made secure technologies more critical than ever to the everyday lives of Americans.
In addition, this effort will threaten the widespread adoption of strong encryption, which is essential for protecting the national security of the United States and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of important data for all persons, corporations, and other organizations, including governmental actors.
Why Encryption Matters
Strong encryption is vital for national security, the economy, personal security and safety, individual liberty, and free expression. Encryption allows individuals to freely express themselves, to exchange personal and other sensitive information, and to protect their data. This includes active duty military personnel stationed overseas, scientists, doctors and patients, attorneys, journalists, human rights workers abroad, political campaigns, corporate executives, and victims of domestic abuse and other vulnerable communities.
Strong, unfettered encryption is vital to national and personal security. Individuals, businesses, and governments—including law enforcement, national security agencies, military personnel, and government officials—use the same commercial off-the-shelf (“COTS”) encrypted services to ensure that the content of their communications is protected against outside surveillance or malicious modification.
Encrypted services are also vital to the U.S. economy—large sectors including online banking, e-commerce, and R&D rely on trusted encrypted services. Encrypted services are even more important now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, for remote working, learning, and healthcare. Removing, weakening or disincentivizing the use of strong encryption, as this bill effectively does, would threaten our economy and sacrifice all users’ security and privacy, leaving their communications, financial transactions, health information, and other data susceptible to misuse by bad actors, including the military and intelligence services of hostile states, organized criminals, terrorist groups, domestic abusers, and malicious hackers.
Backdoors to encryption make everyone in society more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats, privacy violations, foreign government surveillance, and other risks. Any backdoor will inevitably be leaked or discovered and used by malicious actors.
A backdoor for law enforcement is a backdoor for bad actors as well.
Preventing crime and keeping people safe is a universal priority—and is also the ultimate goal of the use of encryption technologies. Making everyone more vulnerable to criminals, malicious actors, and foreign intelligence services would be the unfortunate impact of passing the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act. It is too technically flawed to be effective, and will force companies to make their products less secure.
We support the goal of promoting public safety, but the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act would have the opposite effect, and it would compromise Americans’ security.
Therefore, we strongly oppose this bill.
Civil Society Organizations
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
Center for Democracy and Technology
Defending Rights & Dissent
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Fight for the Future
Global Partners Digital
Human Rights Watch
Internet Users Forever IKI
LGBT Technology Partnership
National Coalition Against Censorship
Restore the Fourth
Swathanthra Malayalam Computing
The Tor Project
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Technology Companies and Trade Associations
ACT | The App Association
Reform Government Surveillance
Security and Policy Experts*
Dr. Ben Adida, Executive Director, VotingWorks
Matt Anderson, Trust & Safety Specialist, Linode
Daniel Appelquist, co-chair of the W3C Technical Architecture Group and Director of Web Advocacy at Samsung Electronics
Anivar Aravind, Executive Director, Indic Project
Brian Behlendorf, The Linux Foundation
Steven M. Bellovin, Percy K. and Vida L.W. Professor of Computer Science and affiliate law faculty, Columbia University
Matt Bishop, Professor of Computer Science, University of California at Davis
Nathaniel Borenstein, Chief Scientist, Mimecast
Georgia Bullen, Executive Director, Simply Secure
Jon Callas, Senior Technology Fellow, ACLU
L. Jean Camp, Indiana University
Seth Blank, VP of Standards and New Technologies, Valimail
Stephen Checkoway, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Oberlin College
Sven Dietrich, City University of New York
Roger Dingledine, The Tor Project
Zakir Durumeric, Stanford University
David Evans, University of Virginia
Alexander Falatovich, Lead Cyber Security Threat Analyst
Alex Gouaillard, W3C AB representative for and CEO of CoSMo Software
Alex Gaynor, Alloy
J. Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering; Director, Center for Computer Security and Society, University of Michigan
Dr. Sven Herpig, Director for International Cybersecurity Policy, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung
Chelsea Holland Komlo, University of Waterloo
Allen Householder, Senior Vulnerability Analyst, CERT/CC, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
J.C. Jones, Mozilla Corporation
Chris Kanich, University of Illinois at Chicago
Dr. Joseph Kiniry, Galois and Free & Fair
Dr. Peter Y. A. Ryan, University of Luxembourg
Petri Koistinen, Nitor
Susan Landau, Tufts University
Dave Lugo, Systems Engineer, Comcast
Art Manion, CERT/CC, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
Sascha Meinrath, Director, X-Lab, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications, Penn State University
Peter G. Neumann, Chief Scientist, SRI International Computer Science Lab, and moderator of the ACM Risks Forum
Zigmund J Ozea, Senior Programmer, Zetalytics
Jon M. Peha, Carnegie Mellon University
Riana Pfefferkorn, Stanford Center for Internet and Society
Ronald Rivest, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Bruce Schneier, Lecturer, Harvard Kennedy School
Ross Schulman, New America’s Open Technology Institute
Wendy Seltzer, Strategy Lead, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Micah Sherr, Georgetown University
Adam Shostack, Shostack & Associates
Harold Solbrig, Johns Hopkins University
Ashkan Soltani, Georgetown University
Michael Alan Specter, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jonathan Spring, CERT/CC, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
Venkat Venkatakrishnan, Professor, UIC
Dan S. Wallach, Professor, Department of Computer Science Rice Scholar, Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University
Nicholas Weaver, Researcher, ICSI & Lecturer, UC Berkeley
Daniel Zappala, Brigham Young University
Dr. Daniel M. Zimmerman, Galois and Free & Fair
Lenore D Zuck, Research Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
*Affiliations provided for identification purposes only