from the DO-NOT-CONGRATULATE dept
I guess those “rule of law” folks don’t care if a law is any good or will do what it intends to do without causing significant collateral damage. All they care about is that it’s a law and, as a law, everyone should just subject themselves to it with a minimum of complaining.
The Attorney General is one of those “rule of law” people. Sure, he works for an administration that doesn’t seem to care much about laws, propriety, or basic competence, but he’s the nation’s top cop, so laws and rules it is.
Bill Barr wants holes in encryption. He wants them so badly he’s making up new words. “Warrant-proof encryption” isn’t any different than regular encryption. It only becomes “warrant-proof” when the DOJ and FBI are talking about it, as though it was some new algorithm that only scrambles communications and data when the presence of a warrant is detected.
Far too many people in Washington think encryption is only valuable to criminals. Bills are in the works to compel encryption-breaking/backdooring. Some even handcuff these demands to Section 230 immunity — a 2-for-1 special on shoveled shit straight from the federal government to Americans’ favorite platforms and services.
Given how much the AG loves broad, abusive laws, it’s no surprise he’s going on the record to congratulate the author of another terrible law on her newest terrible piece of legislation.
Today, Attorney General William P. Barr issued the following statement on the introduction of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would give law enforcement access to encrypted data with court approval in order to protect user privacy. The legislation was introduced by Representative Ann Wagner.
“I applaud Representative Wagner for introducing this critical lawful access legislation. Although strong encryption is vital, we cannot allow the tech industry to use encryption that blinds law enforcement and prevents it from thwarting or investigating serious crimes and national security threats, including terrorist plots, cyberattacks, and sexual exploitation.”
Yes, let’s applaud Rep. Ann Wagner. (Let’s not.) Wagner was the sponsor behind FOSTA, the anti-sex worker law (d/b/a anti-sex trafficking legislation) that has been instrumental in roughly zero prosecutions — the same prosecutions bill sponsors like Wagner claimed would be impossible without this new law.
That wasn’t Wagner’s only bogus claim. She also claimed the passage of FOSTA resulted in the immediate disappearance of 90% of “sex trafficking ads.” This claim was proven false by fact checkers. The vast majority of the ads that vanished did so when Backpage shut down its adult ads prior to FOSTA’s passage and prior to the DOJ’s prosecution of the site’s owners.
So, when Barr applauds Wagner, he’s applauding someone who’ll say almost anything to justify harmful legislation. This is the kind of person Barr admires because Bill Barr does the same thing, even though he’s not writing new bills personally.
Here’s some more of the “anything” Barr will say to applaud bad bill-making. Wagner’s new thing is a clone of the Senate’s “Lawful Access to Encrypted Data” bill. As you can guess by reading the bill’s clunky title, it’s another attempt to sacrifice encryption on the altar of law enforcement convenience, ensuring cops don’t have to work too hard to collect evidence.
As we all are painfully aware, law enforcement agencies — despite being around for more than 150 years — have yet to solve a single crime. So it’s imperative we give them access to gigabytes of communications and data so they can finally get around to putting a few criminals behind bars. That being said, here’s what’s being said by Barr in support of this bill. I have no idea what most of this has to do with anything, but it’s full of things that sound bad.
The danger is particularly great for children, especially during this time of coronavirus restrictions when children are spending more time online. Survivors of child sexual abuse and their families have pleaded with technology companies to do more to prevent predators from exploiting their platforms to harm children. Unfortunately, these companies have not done enough, which is why this legislation is needed.
Well then. And I thought this administration was going to save kids from child predators by sending them to COVID-infested schools ASAP. But somehow this is the tech companies’ fault, since they offer security to all users, even though a small percentage of users engage in criminal acts.
Barr finishes up his applause for Wagner and her LAED knockoff with what can only be a deliberate misreading of the issues at stake.
Privacy and public safety are not mutually exclusive. I am confident that the tech industry can design strong encryption that allows for lawful access by law enforcement. Encryption should keep us safe, not provide a safe haven for predators and terrorists.
The issue isn’t privacy. The Constitution may help ensure privacy by limiting the government’s intrusion into our lives and homes, but what’s really at stake here is security. And security — of devices and files and communications — is directly related to public safety. You can’t claim to be a champion of public safety when you’re willing to make it easier for malicious hackers to gain access to email accounts, personal messages, smartphones, hard drives, computers, social media accounts, and everything else encryption shields from outsiders.
An encryption hole handcrafted for cops is a hole anyone else can use once it’s discovered. A backdoor built into hardware or software isn’t only going to be exploited by law enforcement. If the assistance is compelled, companies won’t be able to patch security issues — not if the flaw exists to serve the government. Tech companies in Australia — where compelled technical assistance is already law — are seeing their customer bases shrink as people look for options that aren’t deliberately broken. The same thing will happen here in the US if bills like this become law.
Bill Barr is willing to sacrifice your security. And he won’t be giving you anything in return. We won’t be safer. We’ll be more vulnerable than we’ve ever been. And Rep. Wagner wants to help him screw you over, just like she did to countless Americans with FOSTA.
Filed Under: ann wagner, backdoors, doj, encryption, fbi, fosta, laed, section 230, william barr
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