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Government Surveillance

FBI Director Offers Troubling Support for Government Backdoors

Today at a Brookings Institute event on encryption, FBI Director James Comey called for back doors in cell phones and communications services to allow for ready government access. Director Comey raised the possibility of a legislative mandate to accomplish this if companies would not provide a mechanism for the government to circumvent encryption. He even went beyond his earlier remarks, saying the mandates the FBI seeks would build insecurity not just into devices, but also into communications services as well.

CDT strongly supports consumers’ ability to protect their private data through encryption, and opposes any legal requirement that companies be required to build “back doors” into smartphones, other personal electronic devices, and communications services for law enforcement.

“Encryption of our personal devices and communications enhances the security of our most private information. Law enforcement already has many legitimate ways to obtain the data stored on our devices. Weakening the security of smartphones and trusted communications infrastructure should not be one of them,” said CDT President Nuala O’Connor.

“We debated and settled the question of whether law enforcement should have back doors into communications networks more than 20 years ago. We chose greater personal security,” added O’Connor. “Now, more than ever, we need strong security to combat malicious hackers and deter overly intrusive government surveillance. Companies are providing more encryption because it is exactly the type of protection the public wants and needs.”