ITIF to DOJ: Do Not Undermine Encryption

October 4, 2019

WASHINGTON—In response to yesterday’s letter and today’s Department of Justice (DOJ) Summit on Lawless Spaces, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, released the following statement from ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro:

Online child sex abuse is one of the most horrific crimes on the Internet. The tech industry has a long history of building new tools and capabilities to address this issue and working with law enforcement, academia, and civil society to find more effective solutions. However, while there is much more work that needs to be done to address this issue, undermining encryption is not the right answer.

The DOJ has long argued that tech companies should create backdoor access to products for law enforcement. The DOJ is clearly attempting to reboot its failed arguments on encryption by reframing the debate as one needed to protect children. However, its position is still wrong. There are significantly more productive ways to identify and combat this type of abuse—such as tracking meta-data about user behavior, infiltrating networks of bad actors, and screening images before they are uploaded—that could yield better outcomes. Governments around the world need to devote significantly more resources to these kinds of efforts—including the United States, which has an understaffed and underfunded division at DOJ to respond to this problem—and the DOJ should call out those who do not provide enough cooperation.

Strong encryption benefits all Americans, including children, and ensures that they can communicate with others privately and securely. Backdoors and other measures to weaken encryption will undermine secure systems, increasing exploits and data breaches that harm consumers and businesses. Moreover, U.S. companies will be more competitive if they can roll out more advanced security measures in their products and services, such as end-to-end encryption. The DOJ should not stand in the way of these efforts.