Obama Administration Gives Up on Law To Access Encrypted Data

After many months of pressing for law enforcement to get backdoor access to encrypted communications, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey [pictured] said last week that President Barack Obama's administration "has decided not to seek a legislative remedy now."

Comey, who has long criticized large tech firms like Apple for their stance on end-to-end encryption, also took a conciliatory tone in describing the administration's talks with the industry.

"The people in industry are good folks," Comey told the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs during a hearing Thursday. Noting that ongoing talks with the tech industry have been very productive, he said the important part is to remove the "venom."

Comey's remarks reflect a decision made during an October 1 Cabinet meeting not to push for a federal law requiring technology companies to provide backdoor access to encrypted communications, according to a report in the Washington Post. Technology and security experts have insisted there is no way to ensure that such access could be provided only to "good guys."

'A Big Problem'

Despite the softer tone he adopted last week, Comey made it clear that officials will continue to seek ways to gain access to encrypted communications. He offered the example of a recruiter for ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) establishing a connection with a supporter in the U.S. first via Twitter, where law enforcement can follow the conversation, and then moving to communication on an end-to-end-encrypted mobile device.

"The needle we have found disappears on us when it becomes most dangerous," Comey said, adding that even "with a court order, we cannot see what is being said . . . This is a big problem."

Last month, The New York Times reported that over the summer Apple had declined to comply with a court...

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