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Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s “Responsible Encryption” Demand is Bad and He Should Feel Bad

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein delivered a speech on Tuesday about what he calls “responsible encryption” today. It misses the mark, by far.

Rosenstein starts with a fallacy, attempting to convince you that encryption is unprecedented:

Our society has never had a system where evidence of criminal wrongdoing was totally impervious to detection, especially when officers obtain a court-authorized warrant. But that is the world that technology companies are creating.

In fact, we’ve always had (and will always have) a perfectly reliable system whereby criminals can hide their communications with strong security: in-person conversations. Moreover, Rosenstein’s history lesson forgets that, for about 70 years, there was an unpickable lock. In the 1770s, engineer Joseph Bramah created a lock that remained unpickable until 1851. Installed in a safe, the owner could ensure that no one could get inside, or at least not without destroying the contents in the process. 

Billions of instant messages are sent and received each day using mainstream apps employing default end-to-end encryption. The app creators do something that the law does not allow telephone carriers to do: they exempt themselves from complying with court orders.

Here, Rosenstein ignores the fact that Congress exempted those app creators-“electronic messaging services”- from the Computer Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

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