The technology for encryption can keep data and conversations private, making it a double-edged sword that can equally be used by democracy campaigners or violent extremists
Encryption can be a terrorist’s tool. But it’s also a key for those hunting attackers, and for many others.
The technology for encryption can keep data and conversations private, making it a double-edged sword that can equally be used by democracy campaigners, law enforcement or violent extremists.
The November 13 attacks in Paris spurred calls for better tools for investigators to track criminals who rely on encrypted communications.
But no solution is readily available that would avoid major impacts on privacy, civil liberties and a wide range of online communications including electronic commerce.
The US government is both a supporter of encryption—funding projects aimed at helping pro-democracy activists—while at the same time pressing for ways to gain access to encrypted data for certain investigations.
“That schizophrenia is inherent in the NSA (National Security Agency) itself,” said Sascha Meinrath, who heads the digital rights group X-Lab.
“The NSA is tasked both to secure our communications and to survey our communications.”
Interest in encryption has been growing since revelations in documents leaked in 2013 by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden describing the NSA’s vast abilities to sweep up data.
But officials from the CIA, NSA and FBI as well as lawmakers and local law enforcement leaders have complained that they are “going dark,” unable to tap into new encrypted apps and smartphones which…