A photo of lines of code provided by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act. The proposed bill would require service providers and device manufacturers to assist law enforcement in accessing encrypted devices or data “after a court issues a warrant, based on probable cause that a crime has occurred, authorizing law enforcement to search and seize the data.”

The bill builds off of the proposed EARN IT Act, which seeks to roll back tech platforms’ Section 230 protections if they cannot prove that they are taking sufficient measures to “prevent, reduce, and respond to the online sexual exploitation of children.”

The bill proposal followed a December 2019 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled, “Encryption and Lawful Access: Evaluating Benefits and Risks to Public Safety and Privacy.” At that hearing, Blackburn accused tech companies of creating a “safe harbor” for criminals by preventing law enforcement from accessing devices. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) questioned whether companies should be permitted to be “beyond the reach of the law.”

In a statement provided to CNET, Facebook stated, “End-to-end encryption is a necessity in modern life — it protects billions of messages sent every day on many apps and services, especially in times like these when we can’t be together. Rolling back this vital protection will make us all less safe, not more. We are committed to continuing to work with law enforcement and fighting abuse while preserving the ability for all Americans to communicate privately and securely.”

Privacy advocates expressed alarm regarding the recently proposed bill. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international non-profit focused on digital privacy, free speech, and innovation, described the bill as “even worse than EARN IT.” The organization stated that the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data was “sweeping in scope” and accused it of “disregard[ing] the security of users.” Reclaim the Net, a publication that highlights “censorship from the front-lines of the internet,” detailed the risks associated with creating a backdoor in encryption software, stating that its existence “invalidates [encryption’s] very purpose.” The Center for Internet and Society called the bill “the encryption backdoor mandate we’ve been dreading was coming.”


Senators Propose a Cool New Contest To Destroy Your Online Privacy – Reason – 6/24/2020
On Tuesday, Graham, Cotton, and co-sponsor Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.) introduced the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act. The full text of the bill is not yet available, but a summary posted at the Senate’s Judiciary Committee (where Graham is the chairman) makes the bill’s goals clear: “The debate over encryption and lawful access has raged on, unresolved, for years. The Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act would bring an end to warrant-proof encryption in devices, platforms, and systems.”

The Cybersecurity 202: Here’s why all election officials should pay attention to Kentucky’s primary – The Washington Post – 6/24/2020
The lawmakers argue that the data-protecting technology shields terrorists, child predators and other criminals from law enforcement. Encryption proponents and tech companies argue that creating an encryption backdoor for law enforcement would also make it easier for criminals to hack into encryption, undermining everyone’s cybersecurity.

Republicans propose bill to end ‘warrant-proof’ encryption – Washington Times – 6/24/2020
Security professionals have maintained that building these so-called encryption “backdoors” would come with major privacy repercussions and have cautioned against them. […] Critics of strong encryption have argued it complicates efforts for criminal investigators to access and decipher evidence, even when armed with a search warrant.

Republican Senators Claim ‘Warrant-Proof’ Encryption Jeopardizes National Security – MediaPost – 6/24/2020
Preempting cries of government overreach, the authors of the new bill insist it will not threaten the privacy of law-abiding citizens. “Our legislation respects and protects the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans,” Graham asserts. Consumer privacy advocates are not buying what Graham and his colleagues are selling.


EFF on Twitter, 6/24/2020: While EARN IT attempts to avoid acknowledging the elephant in the room—its attack on encryption—the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act puts it at the center of a three-ring circus.

Eric Galler on Twitter, 6/25/2020: A coalition representing the world’s biggest tech companies — including Apple, Google, and Microsoft — says the new Senate GOP encryption bill would leave the country “dangerously exposed to cyber threats from criminals and foreign adversaries.”

CWA LAC on Twitter, 6/24/2020: Thank you Sen. @LindseyGrahamSC, @SenTomCotton, and Sen. @MarshaBlackburn for introducing the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act. The women of @CWforA are grateful for your leadership protecting victims. Thank you!

Gary Shapiro on Twitter, 6/24/2020: The Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, if enacted, would destroy the rightful belief of Americans that their conversations and information can stay protected. Read my full statement

XBIZ on Twitter, 6/24/2020: Sex Workers Activists Urge Community to Help Stop ‘New FOSTA’ EARN IT Act @hackinghustling

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