U.S. Congressmen have shown a proclivity to selling out ethically in legislation, or to lobbyists for corporations. With technological innovations like the Internet, these realities are much harder to hide from the people they claim to represent. Many government organizations require funding authorization from Congress to advance their operations, and agenda. If you listen to the FBI, it seems freedom is bad and security under their control is a perfect world.
Maybe this week’s security hearing in Washington with the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform shows Congress is moving towards a more populist stance. It may be just lip service, but when Amy Hess, the FBI’s executive assistant director for science and technology, expressed the agency’s desire to place so-called backdoors into encryption technology, it did not go over well.
“Creating technological backdoors just for good guys is technologically stupid,” said Stanford University computer science graduate Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). “That’s just stupid. Our founders understood that an Orwellian overreaching government is one of the most dangerous things this world could have,” Lieu added.
Hess and the FBI did not make friends of influence people on this visit, as legislator after legislator soundly attacked the stance that security trumps freedom.
“I, for one, am not willing to give up every bit of privacy for security; so how do we find that balance?” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked. “It’s impossible to build a backdoor for just the good guys. I worry about unintentional vulnerabilities.”
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Fortunately, this broaching of this subject at least seems to be going through proper channels, as this has not been the case as of late. “Stingray” programs, for example, with law enforcement using cell phone towers they produce to track citizens and access their phones have become common. The legality and constitutional ethics of such measures are questionable, to say the least. Such measures have lead to a general distrust of law enforcement and the government that allows such flagrant abuses of power.
“The FBI’s proposal to require encryption backdoors is a threat to fundamental human rights of privacy and free expression,” human rights and technology lawyer Carey Shenkman told the Daily Dot. “That is the reason free speech and privacy organizations around the world, including U.N. experts, adamantly say ‘no’ to backdoors. Backdoors also are counterproductive. They undermine our safety because they put holes in systems that any attacker or hacker can exploit. And, they make our businesses less competitive because other markets will not trust U.S. digital exports.”
With Bitcoin designed around the security of encryption, future policy by the U.S. Government and agencies like the FBI are critical to its future as a free market. Government agencies like the FBI believe everything of great capability, from guns to technology, to currency must be the dominion of government to be used on their terms. Your bank, your military, and your government have been using encryption to protect transferred data since the 1950’s, and who knows how ethically they used these advancements. Now that common citizens have access to encryption, the FBI wants access to any and all data transfers, encrypted or not. U.S. congressmen themselves are very powerful, influential people, and also like the security encryption options provide. They have started to feel the sting of the damage government agencies out of control, like the NSA, can have to their own security. They have a vested interest in protecting their own freedom of expression without “Big Brother” invading all data transmitted.
At least they are asking for permission before taking all liberties away. This has always been a necessary step in maintaining a responsible and accountable governance. A step that showed the resolve of Congress, when confronted with government overreach of authority directly. Can this above-board nature of law enforcement and legislative authority be maintained? Or will the trend towards more and more government overreach behind closed doors continue?
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Last modified: May 2, 2015 10:45 UTC