Several sources are saying that a meeting in Washington on Wednesday discussed ways to curb the use of end-to-end encryption.
Politico writes that the goal of the National Security Council meeting, gathering high-ranking officials from several US agencies, was to look into forcing tech companies to reconsider their use of the technology.
Reportedly this would apply to cases of serious crimes such as terrorism.
The government and Big Tech have already had several run-ins over the use of end-to-end encryption that can’t be cracked.
One well-known example was the 2015 San Bernardino shooting that saw Apple refuse to allow access to data on a suspect’s iPhone, despite the Department of Justice demanding it. But the case ended without producing “a definitive legal precedent.”
To these companies, constantly under fire for their privacy-undermining policies, using encryption means improving their public image, which is their vital interest.
But if communication is secured with encryption on both ends, it means that only those participating in it have access – leaving the government out at times when it wants to be inside.
How the US administration might go about the business of forcing tech companies to, as Politico put it “effectively outlaw” end-to-end encryption, is unclear at this time, as no decision was taken during the meeting.
The website quoted unnamed sources as saying that the meeting did take place – although there has been no official comment on this – and adding, “The two paths were to either put out a statement or a general position on encryption, and [say] that they would continue to work on a solution, or to ask Congress for legislation.”
The article argues against any new laws that would weaken encryption by writing backdoors into the code. That would allow access to suspects’ devices and data to government agencies – but also to anyone else skilled enough to exploit it – and at risk, there would be citizens in general.
According to Politico, not everyone in Washington is equally enthusiastic about the idea, with those opposed to it worrying about economic and diplomatic ramifications.