FBI’s “Going Dark” Claims Now Even More Dubious

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Is strong encryption causing the FBI to “go dark”, blocking access to evidence from criminal investigations? That claim has long been dubious, and a new report from the Washington Post, confirming that that FBI inflated the number of locked devices it cannot open by at least 4x, makes the claim even less credible. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) advocates for strong encryption to keep our daily communications secure and protect information and networks across sectors.

“The report is a clear reminder that policymakers should take the FBI’s claims of going dark with a big grain of salt. This is the third time in three months that disclosures have undermined the FBI’s claims that it needs a mandated backdoor to encryption in cell phones and other devices,” said Greg Nojeim, Director of CDT’s Freedom, Security, and Technology Project.

“The factual basis of the FBI’s arguments to weaken encryption has been called into doubt. The Department of Justice should open an Inspector General investigation to uncover how the FBI came to its dangerously exaggerated claim on the number of locked devices,” Nojeim added.

The FBI has repeatedly cited the inflated figure to justify calls for a “backdoor” to encryption. Security experts have long noted that such access would undermine cybersecurity. The Washington Post report follows a Department of Justice Inspector General report that also called into question the FBI’s credibility about “going dark,” and recent disclosures that private companies have developed technical solutions that enable the FBI to access the content of iPhones, further compounding the credibility concerns.

“Mandating the weakening of the security of cell phones and other technology would make everyone less secure. From business transactions to personal communications to top-secret interactions, encryption is a vital security measure against malicious actors,” Nojeim concluded.

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