Tim Sparapani of Forbes reports on the schizophrenic FBI first pushing for personal encryption for years but now changing course and deplores it since it lacks “law enforcement-only” backdoors:
The FBI appears to be of two minds on the merits of encryption. For several years the FBI deemed encryption by businesses a best practice to protect consumers from cyberthieves. Noting the daily cyber attacks and the damage to American businesses and their customers, the FBI urged companies to prevent fraud by using encryption. Just this spring, the FBI decided it too would turn on encryption-by-default to protect communications with its websites.
What was good for the goose, however, was not necessarily good for the gander. Recently, without justifying a policy switch, the FBI buried their pro-encryption guidance over concerns regarding encryption systems that only customers, not the businesses offering the encryption, could decrypt. Businesses had heeded the FBI’s and consumers’ calls too well it seems. They were employing encryption that the businesses themselves could not decrypt because only customers held the decryption keys. Raising hypothetical concerns about negative effects on potential investigations, FBI Director James Comey attempted to bludgeon businesses using encryption into ensuring there was always a “backdoor”. He pushed Congress to mandate that every business implement a technologically feasible means of accessing encrypted information should the government ever need access for an investigation. The FBI raised the prospect of their surveillance “going dark” due to widespread implementation of encryption without backdoors.
The FBI’s concerns run counter to the motivations of concerned consumers and businesses that, feeling under siege by hackers and identity thieves, are seeking out technologies to protect their data. Others, including journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents, seek encryption to protect their civil liberties in response to reports of untargeted, bulk government surveillance by the NSA and foreign spy agencies. Businesses responded to these market demands by supplying encryption techniques that only the customer has the key to unlock.
No surprises here. Law enforcement always wants more capabilities, regardless of its impact on society.