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Cryptographers See Danger in Encryption Laws

SAN FRANCISCO, Mar. 06, 2019 – 

Government policies that give law enforcement the tools to access encrypted communications could represent a significant security danger at a time when keeping data private is becoming both more critical and more difficult, according to a panel of cryptographer experts gathered at the RSA Conference 2019 here.

Meanwhile, recent laws enacted to protect the privacy of user data – such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which takes effect next year – represent necessary early attempts to compel companies to treat consumer data with utmost care, experts said.

The worlds of law enforcement and privacy advocacy are often at odds. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Apple engaged in a heated dispute in 2016, for example, when Apple challenged an FBI request to create software that would give the FBI access to the data on an iPhone recovered from a shooter involved in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., which left 14 dead and 22 injured. The case was headed for a courtroom showdown before the FBI found a vendor that could unlock the phone.

While few would argue that law enforcement needs tools and technologies to keep the public safe from threat, participants in the RSA Conference annual Cryptographer's Panel here Tuesday said laws such as Australia's controversial Access Assistance Bill passed last year represent a threat to the very privacy that cryptoghers and other security experts strive to protect.

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