Writing in Forbes today, Cam Kerry, formerly of the Department of Commerce and a member of the FPF Advisory Board, discusses some of the challenges facing law enforcement as technology continues to race past the law. In recent weeks, FBI Director James Comey has criticized tech companies like Apple and Google for embracing stronger levels of encryption, encryption that increasingly hampers the ability of law enforcement to get access to information.
Kerry notes that not only did last year’s Snowden revelations made “it hard to argue the U.S. government lacks visibility into communications,” but he also recognizes a fundamental tension between the needs of law enforcement and technological innovation. “[Law enforcement’s] main mission to catch the bad guys constrains the airing of civil liberties and privacy issues that matter to Internet users, providers and others,” he writes. “[F]rom a technical standpoint, the FBI’s front door is a hacker’s or spy’s back door.”
There’s the rub: any lawful intercept solution will be exploited by third parties. Without a basic recognition of this fact, the honest debate the FBI Director is seeking may be difficult to properly frame.