Attorney General William Barr has gone on record to ask that all tech companies provide backdoors into their encrypted products. According to Barr, consumers should be willing to accept the risk of being hacked by criminals so that government authorities can have the ability to access their electronic devices at any time. It’s a completely self-serving argument and yet another indication that Barr was a poor choice for Attorney General.
Consumer-level encryption has become much more common and much easier to use in recent years. The demand for it has come as the result of various leaks that have indicated just how easily the National Security Agency (NSA), and therefore other intelligence agencies, has been able to infiltrate people’s electronic devices. While that may have been something that people joked about in the past, the reality that just about everyone’s phone calls, emails, and conversations were being recorded was a wake-up call to many.
The push for encryption, then, is a reaction to the abuses engaged in by government authorities. Now those same authorities want tech firms to put backdoors in current encryption. Essentially they’re saying, “We screwed up last time. But you can trust us not to overstep our authority again. Honest.” Riiiiight.
Whenever governments try to get this type of power they always trot out the usual bogeymen. “Give us this power or else terrorists/pedophiles/drug dealers will run free.” Of course, the surveillance doesn’t end with terrorists or pedophiles or drug dealers. Heck, many times it doesn’t even start with them. The new powers that government gains are used to prosecute ordinary garden variety criminals. And of course the new powers are used also to start spying on even more people, to try to discover who the government can prosecute next.
It’s up to conservatives and Trump supporters to oppose any further efforts to weaken encryption by requiring backdoors. Not only does that open up consumers and businesses to government intrusion, it opens them up to hacking by foreign powers and cybercriminals too. There’s no benefit to consumers, just a whole host of drawbacks.