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End-to-end encryption scrambles the data in a message so only its sender and its recipient can read it. You may be using end-to-end encryption without realizing it, too. It’s used in popular messaging platforms like iMessage and WhatsApp and is a boon for user privacy and security.
However, the Trump administration is mulling whether or not to ban end-to-end encryption within messaging apps, according to a new report.
On Wednesday, the National Security Council met to discuss the “going dark” problem — essentially, the challenges of encryption being baked into more and more tech platforms. During the meeting, senior administration officials debated whether to ask Congress to outlaw end-to-end encryption, Politico reported.
Tech companies often bill encryption as necessary for the privacy and security of its users — and say that backdoors that can bypass that encryption could be leveraged by hackers and criminals. But law enforcement agencies argue that strong encryption often snarls their investigations.
At the meeting, officials discussed two options to go forward: either issue a general statement on encryption and continue looking for a solution, or ask Congress to legislate a ban on the practice.
Reportedly, no decision was made because the government entities in attendance are strongly divided on the issue.
While the FBI and the Department of Justice want to catch criminals, the Departments of Commerce and State pointed out that there could be economic security and diplomatic consequences to mandating backdoors in popular software.
Among other departments — like Homeland Security — the division was internal. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency know that encrypting data is vital for security. The Secret Service and ICE, on the other hand, routinely run into problems during their investigations because of encryption.
Politico notes that experts say Congress is “unlikely” to pass a bill requiring backdoors into encrypted systems. In the House, there is bipartisan opposition to any type of undermining of encryption.
Tech firms aren’t likely to stay quiet on the issue, either. Apple, for its part, has consistently argued against building backdoors into its hardware and software products. The Cupertino tech giant even went toe-to-toe with the FBI because it refused to do so a few years back.