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Paris attacks reopen US data encryption debate

Monday, November 30, 2015

Subject

The US data encryption debate post-Paris.

Significance

The increased use of 'strong encryption' technology by tech companies has renewed fears among law enforcement officials that user data will 'go dark' and become inaccessible to investigators. In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, US law enforcement officials have called for tech companies to enable government agencies to bypass strong encryption, including by building 'back doors' into software. However, this debate has significant commercial implications, particularly for US tech companies attempting to retain market share among increasingly privacy-orientated customers in the United States and abroad.

Impacts

  • US law enforcement efforts to circumvent encryption may hinder renegotiation of the US-EU 'Safe Harbour' agreement.
  • UK adoption of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill enhancing government data access may boost similar US efforts.
  • The encryption debate may undermine the Obama administration's efforts to set international rules for other technologies, such as drones.
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