It’s Time to Move the Encryption Discussion Forward

The encryption discussion in Washington has been locked in a polarized stalemate for months — with loud voices on distant ends deeply dug in.

Encryption is a complex issue that affects a range of global stakeholders, from governments to businesses to individuals. The ideal solution needs to consider all legitimate sides of the argument and can only be achieved through open dialogue. It is time for this stalemate to end.

To move the conversation forward, BSA | The Software Alliance has developed a set of Encryption Principles, to be used by governments around the world to evaluate proposals on encryption in a balanced way. These principles frame a comprehensive approach to address the important needs of global cybersecurity, public safety, and personal privacy and prosperity.

Much of the recent coverage on encryption has centered on preventing terrorist attacks. The challenges confronting law enforcement as they work to keep us safe should not be underestimated, but we cannot examine this issue from a single point of view. There are consequences to undermining encryption. Although weakening encryption may help law enforcement investigate specific crimes in the short term, we shouldn’t lose sight of the significant long-term harm that could come from compromising these defenses.

Our national, state, and local governments rely on encryption to secure sensitive information. Data service providers also use encryption technology to protect private personal and business data, such as addresses and financial profiles. Banking, health, electricity, water, and other critical infrastructure providers depend on encryption to guard their operations. Encryption plays an integral part in guaranteeing the safety of online data that affects our day-to-day lives.

With the next Administration and Congress coming to Washington in January, industry and policymakers have an opportunity for a renewed focus on this issue. Let’s stop viewing the encryption debate as a competition with winners and losers. Only by engaging in collaborative discussions will we discover a solution that doesn’t undermine the security of everyone. BSA is prepared to evaluate any proposed legislation, regulation, or policy on encryption to determine if it meets these needs. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

To learn more about the BSA Encryption Principles, visit www.bsa.org/encryptionprinciples.