Petition to the White House on Strong Encryption

Recently, I signed a petition to the White House asking the President to publicly affirm his support for strong encryption. The official response was:

Thank you for signing the petition on strong encryption and speaking out on this important national debate. As the President has said, “There’s no scenario in which we don’t want really strong encryption.” It is critical that the government, the private sector, and other experts regularly engage to understand the impacts of encryption on national security, public health and safety, economic competitiveness, privacy, cybersecurity, and human rights around the world.

This conversation about encryption is also part of a broader conversation about what we, as a nation, can do to fight terrorism as it evolves online. That is why, in his address to the nation on Sunday, the President reiterated the Administration’s call for America’s technology community and law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials to work together to fight terrorism. American technologists have a unique perspective that makes them essential in finding new ways to combat it. They are the best and most creative in the world, and we need them to bring their expertise, innovation, and creativity to bear against the threat of terrorism.

This week, administration officials will sit down with the creators of this petition to hear directly from them about their priorities and concerns.

We also want to hear from you. Share your comments and questions here, and we’ll report back after the meeting.

This is a critical conversation, and we want to hear from as many voices as we can.

Thanks again for your participation in We the People.

Ed Felten
Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer

Michael Daniel
Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator

This was my response:

My concerns regarding strong encryption are largely captured by the recently published “Keys Under Doormats” paper by Harold Abelson, et. al from MIT. I agree with their three main points that requiring a backdoor/weakening encryption is counter to the current trend in making the Internet more secure, adds complexity, and increases the potential for security breaches.

Encryption is an important tool to increase the security of data. With recent security breaches, such as the one from the Office of Personnel Management and other private companies, it’s evident that we as an industry and as a nation need to improve our security technology, not weaken it.

I recognize the claim by law enforcement that encryption is frustrating them. As “Keys Under Doormats” suggests however, there are many practical and technological reasons why weakening encryption is not the answer. I’d like to provide an additional moral one. As a Navy and Afghanistan veteran, I volunteered to serve this country because I believe in the core American values. By weakening our encryption technologies, we would not only cause damage to our our digital protection systems but we would compromise our core believe in freedom out of an understandable, but largely sensational, feeling of fear.