Governments should not have the ability to decrypt user data, even to access data that would support criminal cases. These are my 3 main reasons:
The government already has tools in which to conduct investigations.
The recent push for a backdoor to encrypted data by law enforcement is couched in the idea of protecting children from predators. A noble pursuit, to be sure, but the government already has a variety of ways to conduct investigations without accessing a suspect’s phone. The government, through police work, can build cases. The FBI can already get into phones without help anyway.
Back-door decryption is like having no encryption at all.
When a key exists, it is only a matter of time before it is used and, the more instances of a key, the more likely it is that it will be used, thereby making encryption useless. Currently, there is a bill under consideration, the “Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act of 2020” or, commonly known as the Earn It Bill. The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School has an excellent take on why this bill is terrible, unnecessary, and inherently dangerous. “The bill is an actual, overt, make-no-mistake, crystal-clear ban on providers from offering end-to-end encryption in online services, from offering encrypted devices that cannot be unlocked for law enforcement, and indeed from offering any encryption that does not build in a means of decrypting data for law enforcement.” (Pfefferkorn, 2020)
Would make all data less safe.
Giving the keys to the encrypted kingdom, even for law enforcement, can lead to abuse. What is to stop someone from obtaining a warrant for data under false pretenses? Or for someone to submit fake or altered paperwork? Remember, the government can already gain access to data by hacking, compelling backdoors just makes the job easier for the government but opens huge security gaps for everyone else.
Encryption is a vital component for securing sensitive data. Although the reasons for the government to have backdoor access seem like a good idea, it would make data much less secure for everyone, for no good reason. According to ScientificAmerican.com, “An encryption backdoor would create a single point of failure. If the keys held by the government were penetrated by criminals, terrorists, or foreign governments, the consequences would be far greater than the harm caused by the theft of sensitive data of as many as four million people in the breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.” (Diffie, 2020)
Cox, J. (2019, July 23). VICE - Barr Says Police Need Encryption Backdoors, Doesn’t Mention Hacking Tools They Use All the Time. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/neaadm/barr-says-police-need-backdoors-doesnt-mention-hacking-cellebrite-graykey
Diffie, W. (2020, June 30). The Encryption Wars Are Back but in Disguise. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-encryption-wars-are-back-but-in-disguise/
Pfefferkorn, R. (2020, June 24). There’s Now an Even Worse Anti-Encryption Bill Than EARN IT. That Doesn’t Make the EARN IT Bill OK. /blog/2020/06/there%E2%80%99s-now-even-worse-anti-encryption-bill-earn-it-doesn%E2%80%99t-make-earn-it-bill-ok
The FBI is mad because it keeps getting into locked iPhones without Apple’s help. (2020, May 22). TechCrunch. https://social.techcrunch.com/2020/05/22/the-fbi-is-mad-because-it-keeps-getting-into-locked-iphones-without-apples-help/
Whittaker, Z. (2020, June 30). Decrypted: Police leaks, iOS 14 kills ad-tracking, anti-encryption bill. TechCrunch. https://social.techcrunch.com/2020/06/30/decrypted-police-leaks-anti-encryption/