With the ISIS attack in Paris still fresh in everyone’s minds, many concerns are being raised about data surveillance laws. Even though there has not been any evidence that the terrorist attacks involved the use of encrypted data, some supporters of expanding data surveillance are citing the attacks as proof that wider-ranging laws are needed. This is nothing new; the ongoing battle between privacy proponents and lawmakers supporting more surveillance is thrust into the spotlight increasingly often. Disagreements over data encryption will likely only increase, with 75% of internet interactions expected to be encrypted in the next ten to fifteen years. And while supporters of internet and data privacy have no problem with this rise in data encryption, it will cause technical problems for government agencies and law officials who need to access information to bring criminals and terrorists to justice.
A compromise has been suggested: some officials have proposed instituting laws that require tech companies to develop methods for police to obtain access to encrypted information, although this may not even be possible. Some companies such as Apple and Google cannot even access data encrypted in their own devices and services. Even if it is possible, the White House has agreed to not move forward with any legislation that would require companies to make encrypted data available whenever the police needed.
Finding a balance between protecting users’ privacy online and surveillance in the name of preserving law and order is an ongoing process and should not be determined quickly in the wake of a crisis. While there should be legal limits on the seizure of encrypted data, there must also be limits on how and what is encrypted. Determining these limits will take time.