USACM Signs Letter to President Obama Urging Wide Adoption of Encryption Technology

By Renee Dopplick, ACM Director of Public Policy
June 16, 2015

USACM signed a letter to President Obama from a variety of civil society organizations urging him to pursue public policies that encourage the wide adoption of strong encryption technology. The letter is responsive to public statements by Obama Administration officials suggesting that U.S. companies should not provide strong encryption in products and services unless the government has the ability to decrypt consumers’ data.

The following text appears in bold in the letter:

We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products. We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology. Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad.

The letter describes how policymakers faced similar choices during the so-called “Crypto Wars” of the 1990s. “Whether you call them ‘front doors’ or ‘back doors,’ introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government’s use will make those products less secure against other attackers.”

USACM delivered a similar cautionary message two decades ago in 1994 during the Crypto Wars in its special report on Codes, Keys, and Conflicts: Issues in U.S. Crypto Policy. The report represented the first major undertaking of USACM. The report’s discussion of the functions of cryptography and the policy issues related to law enforcement, national security, and individual privacy remain relevant to today’s discussion, as does its conclusion: “The choices the United States makes about escrowed encryption, confidentiality of communications, and government access to encrypted communications will reverberate across the globe.”