A concerted campaign among officials on both sides of the Atlantic to attack strong encryption has intensified in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings. Most recently, we’ve had a leak of a document in which the EU’s “Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator” recommended that Internet companies should be forced to hand over their crypto keys; and now Leslie Caldwell, an assistant attorney general at the US Justice Department, is reported by Vice.com to have made the following comment:
“We understand the value of encryption and the importance of security,” she said. “But we’re very concerned they not lead to the creation of what I would call a ‘zone of lawlessness,’ where there’s evidence that we could have lawful access through a court order that we’re prohibited from getting because of a company’s technological choices.”
She said that she hopes Apple and Google will consider building in back doors that will allow the companies to decrypt the phones if they are physically mailed back to the manufacturer.
As Techdirt has noted before, this narrative plays right into the hands of repressive governments around the world, which can simply point to the West’s argument, and say: “We agree.” So it will not come as a huge surprise to readers of this site to learn that when it comes to demanding encryption keys and backdoors from computer companies, China now agrees:
The Chinese government has adopted new regulations requiring companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks to turn over secret source code, submit to invasive audits and build so-called back doors into hardware and software, according to a copy of the rules obtained by foreign technology companies that do billions of dollars’ worth of business in China.