All the way back in 2013, Edward Snowden’s revelations at least gave us a glimpse, if not a full and precise picture, of how the internet was being played and controlled by state actors.
Encryption in particular, reports seven years ago said, was under direct assault by the US NSA agency, and its little UK brother, GCHQ, with the goal of undermining this method of private and secured communication.
In other words, the sad state of affairs about encryption on the web is that it was, and continues, to be regarded as the arch-enemy by state entities across the world and by different political and ideological systems. And it’s apparently still newsworthy that those would want to undermine it further, in any way they can.
It’s newsworthy at least when US Senators try to promote a bill to that end. This one is known as “Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act”. Anyone with an ear to the ground has to ask themselves – what is this even about? What more could US legislators want in terms of undermining encryption, that they realistically can’t do now?
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If passed, the act would require tech companies to help investigators access encrypted data if that assistance would help carry out a warrant.
It turns out that this isn’t even the most rabid anti-encryption legislative idea out there – as it “stops short of explicitly requesting tech companies to create a backdoor.”
A “backdoor” inserted into encryption software invalidates its very purpose, by first allowing access to typically one state player – who would then presumably be betting on other actors, state and otherwise, around the globe not to go ahead and use that same “door” to access that same data.
(Spoiler: Once the encryption flaw is in place, others will eventually, one way or another, manage to do use it.)
And remember, how there have already been complaints that encrypted communications hinder efforts to censor “misinformation”.
Hence the entire encryption “debate” – if a government could break encryption just for “regular folk” without eventually shooting itself in the foot, there would probably be no controversy.
Be that as it may, this latest attempt to make US tech giants allow the authorities access to encrypted data, championed by Senator Lindsey Graham (he of the EARN IT Act) seems to be limited to asking tech companies to provide “lawful access” to data without mandating an end to encryption on the web, as we know it.
The proposed legislation also allows for “tech companies that receive a request to appeal to federal court to change or set aside the orders.”