Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has introduced legislation that could weaken encryption for police investigations. Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images. A group of Senate Republicans is looking to force tech companies to comply with “lawful access” to encrypted information, potentially jeopardizing the technology’s security features.
On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers introduced the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, which calls for an end to “warrant-proof” encryption that’s disrupted criminal investigations. The bill was proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, along with Sens. Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn. If passed, the act would require tech companies to help investigators access encrypted data if that assistance would help carry out a warrant.
awmakers and the US Justice Department have long battled with tech companies over encryption, which is used to encode data. The Justice Department argues that encryption prevents investigators from getting necessary evidence from suspects’ devices and has requested that tech giants provide “lawful access.”
That could come in many ways, such as providing a key to unlock encryption that’s only available for police requests. The FBI made a similar request to Apple in 2016 when it wanted to get data from a dead terrorist’s iPhone in a San Bernardino, California, shooting case.
Giving access specifically to government agencies when requested is often referred to as an “encryption backdoor,” something tech experts and privacy advocates have long argued endangers more people than it helps.
End-to-end encryption protects billions of people from hackers, oppressive governments and abusive romantic partners by providing security measures that even the companies themselves aren’t able to crack. Creating a way for investigators to access that data raises concerns that the method could also open the door for hackers and criminals to abuse that exposure.