Encryption: What It Is and Its Implications


“The question for Americans and lawmakers is not whether or not encryption is essential, but instead, whether law enforcement should be granted access to encrypted communications when enforcing the law and pursuing their objectives to keep our citizens safe.”
– Chairman Bob Goodlatte

Roadmap for the Encryption Working Group

Chairmen Goodlatte and Upton and Ranking Members Conyers and Pallone released the following statement on the roadmap:

“The roadmap adopted by the encryption working group this week paves the path toward identifying solutions to the ongoing national debate surrounding encryption. Members of the working group agree that encryption is a critical tool for protecting Americans’ privacy and security and that private industry must continue to increase its effectiveness. However, challenges remain for law enforcement seeking to protect the American people from criminals and terrorists. We look forward to continuing our work on this important issue.”

Duration:  The working group will work diligently over the next several months to conduct its business with the goal of completing its work by the end of this Congress.

Member and Staff Meetings: Members and staff will conduct meetings with a variety of federal, state and local government entities, former government officials, private industry and trade associations, civil society organizations, consultants and legal experts, academia, and cryptographers.

Site Visits: Members and staff will participate in a variety of site visits to conduct meetings and receive technical briefings on encryption.

Document/Testimony Submission: Outside groups are encouraged to submit in writing white papers, scholarly articles, or testimony to facilitate the working group’s efforts. These can be emailed to EncryptionWG@mail.house.gov. Please be advised that submissions sent will be made publicly available.

Final Product: The meetings, site visits, briefings and research conducted by the working group will help to inform its ultimate findings and recommendations to the House.

Members of the working group are Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Yvette Clarke (D-NY) , and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA). Chairmen Goodlatte and Upton and Ranking Members Conyers and Pallone serve as ex officio members of the working group.

Encryption News

History of Private Technology and Government Searches

Congress has enacted a variety of statutes over the last half a century that, to some degree, require certain telecommunications companies to provide assistance to the government in carrying out a court-ordered search including:

Even the most recently enacted of these statutes did not contemplate the technology explosion of the last 20 years and the types of products and services that, for many Americans, are today commonplace.

Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy

At the first hearing on encryption, members of the House Judiciary Committee closely examined the concerns raised by law enforcement and American technology companies in order to help find a solution that allows law enforcement to effectively enforce the law without harming the competitiveness of U.S. encryption providers or the privacy and security protections it delivers for U.S. citizens.